A Is For Amy
XThe last time I had a nightmare was in eighth grade, after my dad had left for a ‘business trip’ that he never came home from. Turns out it was his way of telling us he didn’t give a crap about us anymore, but that wasn’t even what’d caused the nightmares.
The reason I woke up sweating and panting was because Mitch had told me he hated me because I wouldn’t color with him. And the guilt overwhelmed me until I couldn’t breathe anymore, until I was suffocated under a massive pile of shame.
Before I’d talked to Amy Shepherd about her dad and the signs, I would’ve told you that was the guiltiest I’d ever felt. But now, after seeing the effects my silence had caused, there was no way I could not feel guilty. I was a time bomb, waiting to explode.
That probably explained why I couldn’t sleep.
It was four in the morning and I’d been lying awake all night, staring at my ceiling. My mom called it a ‘popcorn’ ceiling, which meant that it had a bunch those things that looked like stalagmites hanging from it. There were hundreds of thousands of those little specks scattered everywhere across my ceiling, just sitting there. I wished they could’ve done something – dance, sing, juggle, whatever – to distract me from the tremendous guilt, but they wouldn’t do anything. So I decided it was time for a glass of water and maybe a piece of leftover cold pizza.
I walked down the stairs – trying to be quiet so I wouldn’t wake up Mitch or Mom – and eventually ended up on what I thought was the last stair. Instead I ended up forgetting a step and fell flat on my face.
There was a small cracking noise as my arm hit the ground and I heard myself grunt loudly. It hurt when I fell. A lot.
I tried to stand myself up but I was suddenly exhausted. My eyes were drooping, and eventually I felt myself fall into a black pit of nothingness.
I woke up in a room covered in white. Mitch was sitting in a chair next to me, Mom in the other chair reading him some book I didn’t recognize that rhymed in unusual places. I listened to them for a few moments before opening my eyes, but I eventually got bored and reluctantly let them know I was awake.
The first thing Mom did was laugh at me.
“What the heck?” I muttered bitterly, watching my language for Mitch’s sake.
“Jake, you… You look so pathetic,” she laughed again. “You look like someone beat you on the side of the head with a bat.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled sarcastically. “Where am I?”
“You’re at the hospital. I heard you fall, but when I came in you were knocked out cold. Can I ask you why you fainted?” She tried to hide her laughter a little more, but it was obvious she found my pain amusing because of the smile on her face.
“I didn’t faint!” I replied instinctively. Guys didn’t faint. Especially not guys like me.
“Jake, you fainted when you saw the blood on your arm. I know because I heard you say, ‘Gross’ before you were out cold.”
“Why was there blood on my arm?” I asked, now curious. What had happened that I didn’t remember?
“It actually wasn’t even blood,” Mom burst out, giggling. “It was red paint from Mitch’s paint set!”
“Y-You fainted over s-some p-p-paint,” Mitch added, laughing his freaking head off. I wanted to punch the two of them in the face for laughing at me when I was in such a fragile state.
“I didn’t faint,” I groaned. “My arm was hurting. I think it might be broken. Is that why I’m here?”
“You don’t remember?” Mom asked curiously, her laughter somewhat subsided. “You woke up in the car and were awake for the x-rays. They gave you pain medicine that accidentally knocked you out before they could put on a cast, but I told them they could just do it while you were asleep.” She paused, looking at me interestedly. “You honestly don’t remember any of this?”
“Not really,” I mumbled. For the first time I looked down at my arm, my eyes widening as I looked at it. It was in a cast. A pink cast.
“Why in the hell did you give me a pink cast?!” I shouted at Mom, given up on watching my words. She should’ve known I would’ve been pissed if she asked them to give me a pink cast without my consent.
I didn’t even care what was broken or how I’d managed to pass out before they could cast me. I was too focused on the pink brick sitting next to me.
“Well, Mitch said that it looked good on you,” Mom explained, still laughing a little bit at my reaction. She glanced sideways at Mitch when he didn’t add anything.
And then we both noticed that he was crying.
“Mitchy, what’s wrong?” Mom asked, all traces of humor gone in her voice.
“I-I thought he would l-like it,” Mitch choked out in between his tears, falling into Mom’s arms hopelessly.
“Honey, I’m sure Jake–”
“I love it,” I interrupted, trying to smile reassuringly and not look angry. “Pink is my favorite color.” I looked down at the cast, reluctantly seeing it in a new light. If anyone else had chosen the color pink for something that would be attached to my arm for six weeks, I would’ve been pissed. But it wasn’t just anyone – it was Mitch. And if he said he thought it looked good, he meant it. It wasn’t to irritate me or to embarrass me or anything like that. It was because he cared about me.
Yeah, maybe I wasn’t the nicest guy in the world. But I loved my brother. And I would’ve done anything to make him happy.
“R-Really?” he asked quietly, looking up at me from Mom’s arms.
“Yeah,” I replied. “I’m really happy you suggested it, Mitch. Thanks.”
His eyes brightened immediately and he shot up from Mom’s embrace, grinning excitedly. “I-I am so g-glad you l-like it!” He jumped off the chair and ran over to me, hesitantly putting his hand on my cast. “D-Does it hurt?”
“Not too bad,” I whispered, thinking it over. Chances were I was hyped up on pain pills anyways, so I wouldn’t even have been able to feel it if they’d cut off my arm instead of put it in a fruity cast. But it didn’t hurt. Not right now.
“G-Good.” He removed his hand from my cast and leaned forward, gently kissing my wounded arm. “Feel b-better soon, a-arm.” He wandered back to Mom and sat down in the chair next to her, looking at my cast intently.
I laughed and shook my head. Mitchell really did think that, by kissing my broken arm, it would help it get better.
“Well, Jake, if you’re sure you feel up to it, we can check you out now. The doctor said once you woke up we could take you home.”
I sighed and nodded my head, attempting to sit up in the hospital bed I’d been lying in. My head felt heavy, like it weighed a hundred pounds, and it took me a few tries before I could do it on my own. Mom left to go tell the secretary we were leaving and it was just me and Mitch picking up all of my stuff.
As we were heading home, Mitch drew hearts and smiley faces all over my cast. I would’ve objected, but he just looked so damn happy. And it wasn’t like the cast could’ve looked any gay-er, anyways. So I wore that cast with pride.
Until football practice came around, that is.
“Benson, why do you have a fairy stick on your arm?!” Coach asked angrily as I was suiting up in the locker room. Luckily, I’d been given permission from my doctor to play with the cast on.
“I broke my arm Tuesday night, Coach. Don’t ask why it’s pink. It’ll be covered by my pads anyways.” I waited for his country drawl to come out even more like it did when he was angry, but he actually sounded relatively relieved when he found out it was a cast and not an actual fairy stick.
“Right. You do that. We don’t need Douglas High School thinking we have a bunch of fruitcakes for players. Especially not our star QB.”
I nodded my head, bitterly accepting the consequences of my having a pink cast.
For starters, Sean didn’t let me hear the end of it. He knew the reason why it was pink, but he still thought it was funny. For some reason, Mom had the bright idea to tell him that I’d fainted, too, which definitely didn’t help my situation at all.
Coach thought I was some fruitcake with a pink cast, and most of my team did, too, because I didn’t tell them the reason behind it. Eventually, I had to set my foot down. “It’s pink,” I told them. “If you have a problem with that, you can screw off and leave the team. Any takers?” No one took me up on that offer and eventually they all left me alone about it. What sucked was that my high school forced school sports to be considered an elective, meaning I got to practice both during and after school. And I had football practice as my second period, which meant that all the rest of the day I was sweaty and my hair stuck to my forehead like glue because Coach refused to let us shower after second period.
The day continued as it always did until the last period of the day, English IV. Without my knowledge, hell was about to break loose.