Chapter 23: Ryan

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Ms. May had stayed with him for a while, handing him tissues and offering him a blanket, even though Ryan had only cried a little. "Is there anyone you'd like me to call?" she asked a few times. Each time, he had shaken his head.

Ryan had called Allison before leaving for school, and left a message. It didn't really surprise him that she hadn't answered. Her job required her to be up at all hours, and quarter of seven in the morning was early for anyone. She hadn't called him back yet, also not surprising. His message had been something like, "I figured I should call and check in. Um, I guess I should also ask when the funeral is going to be?"

Nothing that was an emergency. Ryan's case was one of Allison's easy ones, by what she had told him. She dealt with a lot of kids who were being abused and who had all kinds of issues and ended up hospitalized. Ryan wasn't much to worry about.

Eventually, Ms. May left him alone in her office. Ryan lay down on the small couch and buried his face in his arms. Being alone here was no better than being alone at Jacky's house, only there were people right outside and Ryan didn't have a blanket. He wished he could have Ms. May call Jacky down and then Jacky could sit with him in the office. But he knew he needed to let Jacky do his schoolwork. No one was going to allow Jacky to use the excuse of, "Well, my friend's mom died..." Not in the same way that Ryan could probably be excused from the rest of the semester.

What do my grades matter now, he thought miserably. Even if I'm valedictorian, it doesn't mean I'll be able to afford to go to college.

He had talked to Dr. Burns about this a few weeks ago. Dr. Burns told him he should meet with his guidance counselor to get information on scholarships and grants available for students in his position. Orphans. That's what he was now. He could join the ranks of Oliver Twist and Huckleberry Finn and Harry Potter. Except Harry Potter still had an aunt and uncle.

The first time he had ever met with Allison, he'd been hopeful about a foster family. He figured there might be some old couple who maybe didn't have the energy for young foster kids with a zillion issues, but who wouldn't mind a well-mannered, straight-A student, mildly depressed foster kid with only a year before he turned eighteen. In the year or so since that first meeting, Ryan thought Allison would have something set up. Ryan could have gotten to know them a little bit before his mom died. Maybe his new foster parents could have even met his mom. When Allison started talking about group homes, however, Ryan knew he wasn't going to go live with a nice elderly couple. Hell, there were cute little toddlers who couldn't find a foster home. No one wanted an almost-adult living with them.

It made him feel big and ugly and unwanted, and he wished his mother could have stayed alive, even if she was in a coma, just long enough for him to turn eighteen, which was horrible to even imagine, trying to finish out the rest of junior year with his mom in a coma, never mind trying to work and pay for an apartment and finish high school totally on his own. Which was what he'd still be trying to do next year, only he'd probably be in some kind of weird "transitional" housing where he'd be forced to have roommates and therapy.

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