Chapter Five

"It's ungodly early," complains Kevin, as Mrs. Vance raps on your door to wake you up.

"We're up," you call back to her, sitting up in bad.

Kevin shoves the pillow over his head. You roll your eyes. You're glad that Mrs. Vance didn't open the door because you aren't exactly dressed. You were planning on putting your clothes back on before you fell asleep, you really were, but it just didn't happen. Every time you went to get up from the bed, Kevin pulled you back down. Not that you're complaining about that at all. No, no, quite the opposite. It was a hell of a good night.

"You gotta get up," you tell him as you pull on your underclothes. You wear your bra from yesterday, you don't feel like getting one from your room. You brought extra underwear in here. You have to look nice today, but not until you get there. You've got to stop at the Turner's house when you get there. Pamela and Jason were only planning on being in the city a few days. It's been a week. They didn't bring anything nice to wear. So you can toss your dress in a bag and put it on there. Which means it doesn't matter what you look like for now. You toss on one of Kevin's shirt. It's a little big, but you don't care. You've always found boy's clothing to be more comfortable to wear anyway. It's practical. You glance back at Kevin. He hasn't gotten up yet. You roll your eyes.

He takes forever to fall asleep, normally, but he's a pain to get up. He almost never gets enough sleep.

"Get up," you say again, reaching out to tickle the bottom of his feet. He kicks. "Kevin, we have to get ready for the funeral, remember? You can sleep in the car."

He grumbles, but sits up.

"It's early," he says. It's not that early. It's maybe eight am. The funeral is at one, but it's two hours away, and you'll need to stop by the Turner's first.

You go out into the living room. Pamela is ready already. She's sitting on the couch, waiting impatiently for everyone else to be ready. Mrs. Vance is in the kitchen, eating breakfast. You grab a banana off the counter, and eat it standing by the counter.

Your phone buzzes as you throw the peal in the trash, and you answer it.

"Chandler," you say, pausing where you are.

"Chandler," says Sally. "Just calling to confirm that you're going to cover the funeral today?"

"Of course," you say. "I'm going to it anyway. I may as well write an article on it, right?"

"That's what I figured," she says. "Ralph just wanted to confirm it. Did you find anything more on Ivy Nelson?"

"Nope," you say walking out of the kitchen. "Not really. I went and talked to her friend, Kianna. The girl's a shitty influence, but she denies knowing anything at all. Says she thought that Ivy was ditching her. She's got a bit of a sketchy boyfriend, but it's not newsworthy. I called some of her other friends, but no one knows who she could have been at the parade with."

"That's weird," says Sally. "I bet there's a story there."

"That's what I said," you say, going back into Kevin's room. He's dressed and sitting on the edge of his bed, half asleep. "I mean, what fifteen year old, who has other places to be, randomly decides to go to the parade alone?"

"None that I know. You going to keep digging?"

"If I can," you say. "I don't know what else to dig in. Her parents don't know shit. Her friends don't know shit. Who else is there?"

"The neighbor?" she suggests.

"I don't know," you say. "Maybe. I'll do some digging tomorrow or something. I'm going to be busy with the funeral today. We might be staying over in Jersey, at Kevin's sister's house. She hates me, so I doubt I'll be able to get much done while I'm there. I'm bringing my computer though, just in case."

"Can't you leave work here?" asks Kevin. You ignore him.

"Don't rush it," she says. "I mean, the funeral is more important than digging. Don't turn your whole life into nothing more than one big story."

"I won't," you say. Kevin is making faces at you. "Okay, I've got to go, Sally, so I'll talk to you tomorrow, or something."

"Bye," she says, and then you hear the line click. You drop the phone into your pocket. Kevin is looking up at you.

"I'm writing a story about the funeral," you tell him. "I promise, I won't do too much work. I just want to be able to jot my thoughts down. And make sure nothing else important happens while we're there. You know Violet won't let me use her computer."

"Whatever," he says.

You pack your computer, you dress, and a change of pants into your messenger bag, and sling it over your shoulder.

"Ready?" you ask. He nods.

You all pile into the car. Mrs. Vance doesn't drive it much. No one drives much here. But she has one. She used to have a job that involved driving, you aren't entirely sure what it was. It was at a place called Vick's. You sit in the front. Kevin's in the back, half asleep against the window. Pamela's on the other side, head buried in a book. You like that she's reading, but you're wondering if she's trying to retreat into a fantasy world. You hope not. It may seem like it helps, but you know it doesn't.

You drive to the hospital first. Jason has special permission to come with you. He's still not at his best, so he has to be careful not to do too much. He lost a limb. He's going to have to be in a wheelchair. He's week. There are bandages on his leg. But the doctor's said it would be best if he comes. He'll have to be helped into the car, and out of the car. He shouldn't be left alone. There are a lot of conditions that go along with it. Mrs. Vance knows them all. She's in charge.

You wonder how she feels about being given the extra responsibilities, of having to look after Jason and Pamela. It wasn't really something that she chose to do. It just kind of happened. She's the oldest one there. Jason had to remain in the city, the hospitals in Jersey aren't really good enough. There wasn't anyone else in the city who could take them. Regardless of how she feels, she's taking them in stride. She hasn't complained.

Kevin stay in the car, with Pamela. He's half asleep, and you don't feel like waking him. You go up with Mrs. Vance. She has to sign him out, and talk to the Doctor's more. It's weird to see him not in a bed, but the nurse wheels him out in his chair. You can tell it feels weird to him too. He's going to have to start physical therapy soon, but so far he hasn't been up to it. There was a bit of concern over who would be paying for it. The Turner's were not a very rich family, and most of the money they had has gone to the funeral. The lawyers dealt with that.

But then you found out that the people of NYC had raised a fund to help cover Jason's medical costs. Hell, there were lot of funds like that, for all the victims. People all over the world contributed. But there was a special one for Jason and Pamela, because their mother died and the papers reported that their father was no longer in the picture.

You wrote an article about it, about how much the public could lean on each other in times of tragedy. Hell, in the best of times, people can barely get along and come together. But when something like this happens, it always brings out the heroes. You remember a quote, by Fred Rogers, that you should always look for the heroes in a time like this. Because it always brings them out. You like that.

The nurse walks with you down to the car. She helps Jason into the car, and waits as you pull out again. Jason sits on the side, in the back, and Pamela moves into the middle. You sit on the other edge, and Kevin stays asleep in the front seat. It's a long ride. You haven't been to New Jersey very often. You aren't entirely sure why Violet decided to move out there. Louis, that's her husband, didn't want to raise his kids in the city. You aren't sure why. You think it's a great place to live. You love the city. But Louis and Violet decided to move away from it. Just like James did.

Pamela reads for most of the trip. Jason spends a lot of time looking out the window. When you're out of the city, Kevin wakes up. Him and Jason talk sports for awhile. You wonder if Jason played any sports. It would be a real shame, with his leg and all.

You spend most of the time glued to your phone. Elissa is coming to the funeral, and she's dragging Keith with her. She says that Christina deserves the same respect that you and Kevin showed Greg. Keith's driving, so Elissa is free to talk to you. You ask how her and Keith have been, since the last time you saw them. She says that she's worried about Keith. He's withdrawn into himself. He hasn't left the city, and he doesn't really want to. But he isn't leaving her room. He's just laying there, on the blown up air mattress, staring at a picture of him and Greg. She's trying to make him come out with her, whenever she goes somewhere, but he never wants to.

You think that's kind of natural at this point. I mean, it's hard to lose someone. You all know that. You think that Elissa is doing wonderfully well, considering he was her best friend. Or maybe it's because she isn't letting herself sit down and think about it. She's busy, busy, busy. She's going to her summer classes, and working at her job, and organizing things in Greg's name. She isn't letting herself the pain of his death. You know it probably feels better, but you aren't sure that it's all the healthy.

Loss is supposed to hurt. James tried to pretend he was okay after daddy's death. He tried to tell you that he was okay. Just two days later. Like it never hurt at all. And you wouldn't let him do that. You feel hurt because it mattered. Because you care. Because you're going to miss having that person in your life. It's supposed to be a shock to the system when you lose someone. You'd be more worried if it didn't hurt.

But you're glad they're going to be there. You don't know anyone in Jersey. Mrs. Vance knows a few people, from the times she went to visit her daughter. And Kevin too. But you don't. Not that it'll matter much. It's a funeral, there isn't much time for socializing. But there's going to be a reception afterward.

You wonder how many other people are going to show up. The bombing turned into a national. The whole world knows about it. Everyone was effected by it. Everyone wants to support the victim's families. So you suspect there are going to be people there who never met Christina Turner. Those from town, of course.

You heard Violet telling her mother on the phone that everyone in town is crushed. Christina wasn't the most social woman, but she knew people. Pamela's been in girl scouts for years. Christina knows all the other mothers. She knows all the other girls. It's a pretty small town. The kind where it isn't too rare to find that you know nearly everyone there. The kind that would suit your brother very well, if he were to live there.

You have to admit, there would be advantages to living in a town like that. News would be easier to find. People know everything about each other. Everyone feels comfortable sharing things with others.

But you like the rush of the big city. You like the fact that there are always a dozen things going on. It's nice. There's never a dull moment.

Jason helps direct Mrs. Vance to his old house. It's not his anymore, and you wonder if that's sunk in for them. They're not going to live there anymore. You don't know what's going to happen to it.

Pamela leads the way inside. She pulls the key out from underneath the rug. She shows you around. Kevin's helping get Jason out of the car. She shows you her room, small and extremely pink. There are books everywhere, and a collection of dolls. She shows you each one, before going over to her closet and pulling out her dress. It's not black, and you guess that doesn't really matter. It's a very dark maroon kind of colour, and she tells you that her mother didn't like black. She said it sucked the light out of rooms. They bring Jason inside, and Kevin goes into his room with him, to help him into his suit. The doctors said it would be difficult. Half of his pant leg is going to be limp, just hanging there. There isn't time to get his clothes tailored to his new shape.

You help Pamela pack a small bag. She's coming back to the city with you. You aren't sure for how long yet, but she needs more than she has. She packs a few shirts, and some shorts. She packs one of her dolls, one named Ellen. She packs some books, telling you about each one. Two that she hasn't read yet, three that she's read a thousand times. It'll do for now. You might come back here later. She looks at her room, with a sad smile, and you leave her be.

You change in the bathroom, and when you come out, Kevin's standing in the living room, in his suit. You don't have a chance to see Kevin in a suit much. He almost never has an occasion to wear them. You think the last time was prom. You went with Bradley Daniels. He went with Louise Carter.

You think the time before that must have been your father's funeral. You're wearing the same dress today that you were that day. You haven't worn it since then. You haven't had reason to.

It's noon now, and the funeral is at one. But you're going early. You're the family.

You make a stop at Violet's house. It's a nice house, despite the woman who owns it. The mailbox looks like a puppy, and it's got the name Underwood printed on it. Pamela runs inside, and Jess comes out to meet her. You're glad Pamela's got a friend like Jess. You don't get out of the car. You stay sitting out with Jason. Kevin goes in and says hi to his sister. They're going with you to the funeral. Mrs. Vance doesn't know how to get to the church where the funeral is going to be held. She's got to follow Violet in the car.

You watch as they all load in. Pamela is going to ride in the car with them. Violet and Louis up in the front. Luke's car seat is on one side of the backseat, the girls next to him.

You follow the car to the church. The first thing you notice is a group of protesters outside the church. Everyone else pretends not to see them, and you go along with it. At least, until you see Elissa standing next to them. Her eyes full of fire and hate.

Mrs. Vance pulls into the parking lot, behind Violet and her family. You grab Kevin, and sneak off to the front of the church, while they all get Jason out.

"Where are we going?" he asks. "Bean, we've got to-"

"The protesters out front. They're the JFUY, right?"

"Yeah," he says. "So what? Who gives a shit? They protest everything. They feed on the anger of others, towards them. Don't pay any attention to them."

"Elissa is out there. I saw her as we were coming in."

"What?" he says.

"We've got to make sure she doesn't kill them or anything."

"It wouldn't be a huge loss if she did."

"It would be for her. She would never hear the end of it. Hell, she'd be arrested."

"Right," he says. "Okay, we'll go get her. But it's got to be quick. Violet will be pissed if we aren't in there with everyone else."

"Violet can feel any damn way she wants. I don't give a shit."

"You've got to act like you give a shit. Just for today. Today is a day of mourning for Christina Turner. Not a day for you and Violet to bicker like you're kids again, got it?"

"I know, I know," you say. "I was just saying."

You round the front of the building, and Elissa's voice rises above all the other noise.

"Elissa," you say, coming up behind her.

"Jacobina," she says. "These jackasses were just telling me that Greg deserved to die."

"Jesus hates fags," says one of the protesters matter-of-factly.

"Pretty sure Jesus was against hating," you say. You don't like religions that aren't tolerant of each other. You think it's stupid. And you enjoy that fact that most religions are technically in support of tolerance, and love, and peace and all that. Even if no one in the religion actually follows that rule.

"God destroyed the city of Sodom because it's inhabitants were gay sinners. He'll do the same to our beautiful city, because of people like Greg Quincy."

"No. God destroyed the city of Sodom because it's inhabitants were fucking sex zombies, who decided that banding together to rape strangers, and going so far as to break into a house, and assault it's owner was acceptable, if it achieved the end result of sex."

"Gay sex."

"I'd say the gay part was the least of their worries." You can see Elissa clenching her fists. "But that doesn't matter here. Whether or not God disapproves of Greg Quincy's behavior has absolutely no relevance to today. This isn't his funeral. Christina Turner wasn't gay. You don't get to scream about someone else and scare away people who want to mourn her."

"Freedom of speech. I can do whatever I want."

Elissa raises her fist, obviously angry. Kevin grabs her wrist before she can act, and then you hear a booming voice behind you.

"Chandler," says Special Agent Leroy Foley. "What's going on here?"

"These kids were attempting to destroy our right to free speech," says the protester.

"I was just educating him on the actual events of biblical stories," you say.

Elissa just growls.

"Walk me inside," he says, and you pull Elissa along after you. "This is your friend Kevin, I know. And who are you?"

"Elissa," she says. "Friend of Greg Quincy."

"Nice to meet you, Elissa. I'm Special Agent Leroy Foley with the FBI. I've been working on your friend's case."

"You're FBI? Can't you do something about those assholes out there?"

"Unfortunately, I can't. They've got a right to stand out on the road and talk about whatever they want. I'd love to send them away, but there isn't anything I can do about it."

"It's stupid. What about freedom of religion? They're trying to shove their religion down other people's throats!"

"They might be trying to do that, but really all they're doing is scaring people away."

"They're stupid," you say. "They're screaming about the bible, but it's like they weren't reading the same book I did. There are some passages in the bible that could be used to better support their arguments that they are completely overlooking."

"Since when did you read the bible?" asks Kevin.

You shrug.

"I don't remember. Awhile ago. There wasn't anything else to read in the house."

"How's Pamela and Jason holding up today?" asks Foley, obviously attempting to change the subject. You let him.

"They're doing okay, I think," says Kevin. "It's hard to tell."

You nod your agreement and turn to Elissa.

"Where's Keith?" you ask.

"He's inside already," she says. "There's a bunch of people here already."

"Yeah. Violet said the whole town is showing up. Almost everyone is being let off work so they can attend."

"I didn't know Christina was that popular."

"It's a small town," says Kevin with a shrug. "Everyone knows everyone else. And people don't die like this here. I mean, people die from stupid violence every day in the city. But not here. Here is supposed to be safe."

There's a rush of cool air as you go inside. Elissa goes over to Keith and takes a seat next to him.

The front row is reserved for the family, but there isn't much family here. Jason's chair is parked next to the pew. Pamela sits next to him, with Jessica by her side. There's two aunts there. One of them was Christina's sister, from out of town. The other is the youngest sister of the kids' father. She still lives in town, and tries to be in their life as much as she can. At least, according to Kevin, who heard it from Violet. But she isn't in any position to take care of them. She's too young, only a few years older than you. She's going to the local community college at the moment, and she works at a fast food joint. She barely makes enough to support herself, much less her niece and nephew. They don't have family, other than that. Jess motions for you to come up and sit with them. So you all file into the front. Violet and Louis first, with Luke in their arms. Then Mrs. Vance, and Kevin. You slide into the end. Violet arranged the funeral. It'll be simple. There will be a chance to say goodbye to the body, and Christina's sister will talk about her.

Pamela is going to say a few words as well. Violet tried to convince Jason to, but he didn't want to. You don't think he has enough energy to get up there.

Violet does a bit of running around before the funeral gets started. She has to help make sure everything is going to go smoothly. For once, you don't run around. You just sit there in the pew, next to Kevin.

It's a very religious ceremony, and you don't know most of what's going on. Your dad didn't raise you on any religion, and you must confess, you don't know too much about them. You read the bible years ago, because to you it was just another book, not something to base your life on. You think it's ridiculous that someone would base their life around just one book, when there's so much more out there. Outside of that, you know nothing about religion.

The preacher talks in Latin, and quotes passages from the bible that you don't remember. It's nothing like your father's funeral, but you weren't expecting it to be.

The room is silent, and you can hear Pamela's tears. Christina's sister speaks first. Her name is Jennifer. She isn't really Christina's sister, she's a step-sister. But they grew up together. Christina was two when their parents got married, and Jennifer was six.

"When we were kids, I thought Christina was a pest," she says. "But she was my baby sister, and I guess that was her job. She was supposed to get on my nerves, because that's what sisters do. I didn't like her at first, her or her mother. But it wasn't long before I grew to love her. Because no matter how much I didn't like the fact that my father got married again, Christina was going to be my sister for the rest of our lives. Her life, I guess. If I'm glad for anything, it's that our parents went before she did. I can't imagine how they would have felt today, losing their little baby at such a young age. Because that's who she always was. She was our little baby. She'll forever be the baby, and it's hard to accept that the baby is gone. She's up in Heaven, with mom and dad, looking down on all of us today. And I'd like to think she's smiling down on us. I know she would be proud of her children, of how strong they're both being. Pamela, Jason, I know it's hard to lose a parent. I know you feel like your whole world is crumbling down right now, but we're here for you. All of you."

She keeps talking for awhile. She reads one of Christina's favorite poems, one that you don't know. Then she sits down again, tears running down her face. You watch as Pamela gives her a small hug.

The preacher talks for awhile longer. And then Pamela gets up to speak. She's walking slowly, like she's trying to keep it together. You hope she knows that she doesn't have to.

She wrote down what she was going to say yesterday, she spend some time in her room last night, writing and rewriting it. Like she couldn't get it right.

"Mom," she says, her eyes on the paper before her. "It's hard to believe that today is really happening. That this whole week hasn't just been some sort of dream. It was supposed to be a great day, the three of us in New York city for a few days. The Big Apple. The place where all dreams come true. But it wasn't the dreams that came true this week, it was the nightmares. It's hard to believe that you're really gone, and not just here at home, while we're away for awhile. I never got to tell you I loved you one last time. I told you to go away, because I needed to get ready for the parade, and you were getting in my way. Mom, I'm so sorry. I love you. I'll always love you. But you gave me and Jason the things we needed to keep going. And that's all we can do, right?"

Tears are pouring down her face, and you know she has more written, but she isn't saying it. She walks back to her seat without another word, and you watch as Jess wraps her arms around her friend.

It's not long before you move to the reception. There's a big room, with a table lining one of the walls. There's all sorts of food. Jason gets to go to the front of the line, with Kevin pushing his chair. There are a lot of people there, and you wonder how they all knew Christina. You recognize all the girls from the girl scouts. They're standing around Pamela, and Jess, talking softly. There are a bunch of teenagers, that you guess that they're Jason's friends. They're standing off to the side, as though they don't know what to say right now. Which, to be honest, you can't blame them for. It's hard to know what to say in a situation like this. Especially when this is your first experience with death. When you don't know anyone else who died.

It was a tragic event. Everyone wants to respond, to convey how horrified they are. But they don't know how to without offending people. They don't want to say the wrong thing and upset Jason.

The rest of the town is there too, in varying degrees of formal wear. You can tell some of them aren't used to wearing it. They're used to jeans and tee-shirts. In small towns, there isn't too much occasion to get all dressed up. Hell, there aren't many occasions that you need to get dressed up for. They look out of place here, but not all of them. No, some of them were born to play the role of social butterfly. To get all dressed up, and talk to people, and pretend to be sad about their dead loved ones.

"A lot of people will miss her," says a voice right behind you, and you almost jump. You turn. Special Agent Leroy Foley. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."

"It's okay," you say. "I was zoning off."

"I heard about their housing predicament. Have you talked to Christina's sister?"

"Not yet," you say, although you're sure that that wouldn't work. Mrs. Vance said she had a few people she was going to try to contact about that today. "Mrs. Vance is going to talk to some people, today. I think."

"I hope something works out," he says, and then you drift away from him. Violet comes over and hands you Luke. You like how she hates you, but she still trusts you with her children.

You join the end of the food line, and try to get him some lunch. Violet is off socializing, and not looking particularly sad. You look back towards Jason, and you see he's at a table now. His friends are sitting around him, and you're glad they are. He could use them right now. Pamela is sitting a table over with her friends, Jess by her side.

When you get food, you go sit by Louis, who's sitting at a table with Mrs. Vance, and some people you don't really know. You hand him Luke, so that you can eat. Kevin's over with Jason and his friends, and you're glad for that. You wish Kevin was over here though. You miss him. You know it's stupid, because he's been in the same room with you all day long.

You eat quickly, and then go over to Kevin and Jason.

He introduces you to all of his friends. There's Troy, who he knows from Basketball. They used to play on team in elementary, but neither of them play anymore. Next to him are Tim, and Matt. They're brothers who's little sister, Katie, is in girl scouts with Pamela. Tim is 13 and Matt is 15. They used to live right across the street. Greg is sitting on Jason's other side. He moved to the town recently, and they met in Biology class the year before.

You talk to them for a few minutes, until Jess comes over and pulls you your sleeve. She drags you away from the table.

"I can't find Pamela," she says. You glance around. You see the gaggle of girl scout girls, but Pamela isn't standing with them. "She was sitting right there. I didn't see her get up, and now she's just gone."

"Maybe she's in the bathroom," you say.

"I checked. She isn't."

"Okay," you say. "I'll go look for her. Don't tell Jason you can't find her, okay? No need to worry him."

"Okay," she says.

You sigh. You scan the room, and you don't see Pamela anywhere. Her maroon dress would stand out among all the black. But isn't here.

You go out into the hallway and double check the bathroom. There's an older lady, fixing her make up at the mirror, but Pamela isn't there.

The reception is in the same place as the service was. The church has a large room designed mostly for this purpose. You follow the hallways back to the chapel. You quietly peak in the door.

There she is.

Just standing there in the big wide room, looking so small. The casket has been placed up on a table, and she's just staring at it.

You watch her silently for a few minutes, until she sinks down on the ground, and you can hear her sobs echoing throughout the room.

Then you walk in, and up to her. She doesn't hear you, so you sit down next to her, and rub your hand along her back. She looks up for a moment, but she doesn't say anything. You don't make her.

You know that sometimes you just need a moment alone, to deal with this.

So you just sit with her, until she scoots over to sit closer to you, and then you wrap your arms around her.

"It's hard, isn't it?" you say softly. "You miss her."

"Yeah," she says with a small nod. "I'm scared."

"I know," you say. "It's okay to be scared. It's normal to be scared. I know I was."

"Did your mom die too?" she asks, looking up at you.

"My mom died when I was very little, but my dad died three years ago."

"I wish my dad were dead," she says, and you see a flash of rage across her eyes. "I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. And he hates us too. He has to. Otherwise, he would have been here. He's as good as dead."

You don't know what to say. You keep rubbing circles on her back.

"Why were you scared when your dad died?" she asks.

"The same reason you are. Because life as you know it is over. It's on to something new, something scary. I wasn't sure where I was going to go, and I wasn't sure where my brother was going to go. I wasn't sure what was going to happen to me, because I didn't have any other family."

"Is that why you live with Jess's grandma?"

"Yup. She took me in, after my dad died. I've known Kevin for a long time."

"I wish I could go live with Jess," she says. "I like Jess. She's my best friend."

"I know," you say. "But I just don't think they have room right now. I promise, wherever you go, you'll still be able to see Jess, okay?"

"Okay," she says, with a faint trace of a smile. "What happened to your brother? He doesn't live with you now."

"He went to go live with our only living relative, in Ohio. Aunt Betty. He's always liked it better out there. He's not a city boy."

"I don't know if I like the city," she says. "Do you miss him?"

"Yeah," you say. "He's my twin, actually. It was hard being away from him at first, because we'd never been apart before. But I get to talk to him all the time, and I go out there and see him sometimes."

You feel a surge of love for your brother. You should call him again. You haven't called him since the day they caught Khalid El-Amin.

"I love Jason," she says. "He's annoying, and sometimes he smells, but he's my brother."

"I know what you mean," you tell her.

Then you sit there for awhile, not saying much of anything.

"I want to go eat," she says, after awhile. So you get up, and walk back to the reception, hand in hand.

You bring her up to the food, and help her get a plate. Then she goes back to her friends, and Jess whispers "thanks" in your direction.

You see Mrs. Vance talking to people, and decide not to interrupt.

Kevin appears behind you, before you can decide where to go.

"Is Pamela okay?" he asks. "I saw you guys come back in here."

"She will be," you say. "It's a tough day for her. But I think she's going to be okay. We just had a nice talk."

He nods.

"How are you doing?"

"Okay," you say. "You?"


"Luke, get away from my barbies," says Jess with a huff. You're back at the Underwood's, and Mrs. Vance decided you're staying the night.

You snatch Luke off the floor, and carry him back into the kitchen. The girls are playing on the floor of the family room, and you decide it's best to leave them be. Let Pamela spend some time with her best friend, before you have to leave again.

Mrs. Vance is sitting at the kitchen table, her hand on her head. She's tired, you can tell. Violet sits across from her.

"None of them can take her," she says, with a sigh. "I don't know what we're going to do. I have custody of them right now, but it's only temporary. The state is getting antsy, that we find someone who can take her soon. Otherwise, she's going to become a ward of the state. I don't want that to happen."

"What about Jason?" asks Violet.

"I don't know. He's older. He's got to stay in the hospital for now. There's a fund to pay for his medical care. I can keep him better. I just need to sign hospital forms, and all, and make sure we go visit him. I can do that. But I don't have the money to keep Pamela for much longer."

"I've talked to everyone I can think of," says Violet. "I don't want her to be taken. I mean, her address is still here. It would be the New Jersey state agencies that would take her. There are no guarantees she would end up anywhere near her brother."

"That's what I'm afraid of. I wish there was something more I could do."

You step back out of the kitchen before they notice you. You go into the living room, and plop on the couch next to Kevin. He takes Luke from you. Louis is sitting next to him, and Jason is in his chair next to the couch. They've got some sports thing on. You don't really care about it, but you sit and watch anyway.

You wish there was something you could do for Pamela and Jason. You don't want her to be taken away. You promised her today that no matter where she went, she would be able to see Jess. If the state takes her, you don't know if she would be able to.

You wish you got paid enough to take her. But you've only been at this job for less than a week. You can't demand a raise. You can't demand anything. You're too young to take care of her.

But you can't think of any other solutions, that Mrs. Vance hasn't already tried.

By bedtime, you still haven't thought of anything. Mrs. Vance puts Luke to bed. Pamela sleeps in Jess's room with her. Jason gets the guest room, because it's the only other room with a real bed. The doctors said that his leg needs to be supported.

Mrs. Vance gets the pull out couch, in the family room. Kevin gets the couch in the living room. Violet just throws a blanket at you. You go into the living room with Kevin.

You debate sitting up to write your article, but Kevin won't let you. He tells you that today isn't a day to work. It's a day in the memory of Christina Turner.

He does a rather good job of convincing you to abandon your article until the morning. His lips hit yours, and you really hope that everyone in the house is already asleep. There aren't doors to the living room.

But that doesn't really stop Kevin. It just means he takes extra care to be quiet.

Before you know it, your clothes are scattered over the floor, and Kevin is draping a blanket over you both. It's too hot for that, but Violet has air conditioning, and it would be worse if someone walked in while this was going on without a blanket. You let your hands wander all over his body, and god. You love the spark you feel every time he touches you.

It's quick tonight, so you don't risk waking someone up. He uses his fingers to get you off, and you feel like you're on fire.

Your last thought before you drift off to sleep is that you should really get your bra off of the TV before morning.