Chapter 25: Jacky (1)

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Jacky lurched awake in the dark. His bed smelled funny. Like pot and Doritos.

He sat up, and then he heard it: a noise, down in the kitchen.

An intruder? Jacky debated whether to call 911, or to grab his prosthetic arm so he could beat the intruder with it. He took the phone and stepped into the hallway. Almost immediately, relief flooded him. The guest room door was ajar.

"Ryan?" Jacky called out softly when he'd reached one of the bottom stairs.

Ryan sat by himself at the kitchen table, in the dim glow of the light over the sink. He was eating something out of a Tupperware container.

"Hi," Ryan said through a full mouth.

"What are you eating? It looks disgusting."

"I think it's chicken pot pie?"

Jacky sat down at the table. "Couldn't sleep?"

Ryan shrugged. "And I was hungry." He scooped up a forkful of pot pie, then paused. "My mom's funeral is on Saturday."

He sounded tired, worn out. Jacky remembered feeling that way, too. Days when he had lain in bed without the energy to do anything. No point, he had figured then.

"And then..." Ryan started, swallowing, "And then I have to go live somewhere else."

"I could ask my mom—"

"I can't ask your mom to do that." Ryan set the fork back in the Tupperware. "It's better for me to get on with my life."

"But you can still come visit, right? They can't tell you not to see your friends." Jacky gave a smile. "Monica won't let them."

Ryan's mouth quirked up, a tiny little bit, and then it was gone. "I know I'll still be at school here."

"So we can still see each other. And I'm sure you'll be able to call. Maybe it'll be like college, or something. Like a dorm."

"Maybe."

Silence filled the kitchen, leaving that word to hang there. So many maybes. Everything so uncertain.

"If it's bad," Jacky whispered, "Like, really bad, you have to call me. I'll come and get you. Or you run away and come here. I'll hide you in my room until we graduate."

Ryan didn't even smile at that. Suddenly Jacky knew that Ryan was afraid it would be that bad.

"If they don't let you visit your friends, I'll go there. I'll stand outside and bang on the door until they let me in."

Setting down his fork, Ryan said, "I'm not hungry anymore. But I'm not tired, either."

"Well, there is something we could do." Jacky laughed at Ryan's expression. "It's not as exciting as making out. Uh, you remember our English project? That's due on Monday."

They went up to Ryan's room. He'd brought the unfinished pages in his bag, and they took them into Jacky's room. Ryan sat down at Jacky's desk to do the inking, and Jacky used his big history textbook as a desk to color. There was something about the dim lighting and the quiet activity that made for a comfortable silence. When they finished, they looked at each other with grainy eyes and tired smiles, and Ryan crawled into bed with Jacky, and they fell asleep wrapped up in each other, Jacky curled against the wide plane of Ryan's chest, their breath warming the air between them.

And that was how Jacky's mother found them the following morning.

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