CHAPTER NINETEEN (draft)

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CHAPTER NINETEEN

The next morning I wake up to the now familiar 7:00 AM alarm claxons, and I remember that I’ve forgotten to do my running homework the night before.

Ugh, great. . . .

Everyone’s groaning in the dormitory, girls on all sides of me complain, as we start getting out of beds and checking our blisters and pulled muscles.

I turn and look at Laronda who stretches her arms, yawning widely.

“Ready for another day of hell camp?”

“Bring it on!” Laronda replies, with another huge yawn.

On the other side of me, I see the brown-haired girl in the other bed next to mine whose name I still don’t know. She looks very sad and kind of sickly. And she is not moving out of bed.

I decide to remedy the situation by introducing myself. “Hi, there,” I say. “Good morning! It’s funny that we’ve been neighbors for like four nights now, but I don’t think I know your name. I’m Gwen—Gwen Lark.”

“Hi,” she says, and her voice sounds grainy with sleep. “Sorry—my English is not great—my name is Hasmik Tigranian.”

“Oh, yeah?” Laronda says on the other side of me. “Hasmik, that’s a pretty name. What kind of name is it?”

“I’m Armenian,” the girl says.

“Oh, really? That’s pretty cool. I’m Laronda Aimes.”

“Wow,” I say. “Armenia is such an amazing ancient country! I read about it some, it used to be a huge empire at the time of Babylon and earlier, probably all the way back to the time of the original Atlantis, I wouldn’t be surprised. It used to be where Mount Ararat is now, the same famous mountain from the Bible where Noah’s Ark landed after the Flood—”

“Yes,” Hasmik says, pulling back her blanket, and sits up. “But now I am from Boston.” And she gives me a weak smile.

“So, how you surviving this Qualification nightmare?” Laronda is now up and messing around her own makeshift clothesline of hand-washed underwear stuffed around the edges of her mattress that she’s copied from me.

Hasmik sighs then swings her legs out of bed. I see skinny feet sticking out from under her long flannel nightgown. One of her ankles has an ugly bruise and swelling.

“Hey, you should go see a doctor,” I say, pointing to her ankle. “That doesn’t look too good.”

“I know,” she says, then winces as her foot touches the floor. “I’ve already go to doctor. He say I need to rest, but I can’t do that. He gave me medicine, and so I take it. The swelling goes down, but after Combat and Agility class, it hurts my foot again. No time to heal.”

Laronda pauses to stare at Hasmik with sympathy. “That’s awful, girl! You must be in crazy pain all the time!”

Ayoh, shat tsavumeh . . . I mean, oh, yes.” The girl nods, and now I can see why she looks so pale and sickly. She must be living in agony.

Laronda and I stare at her, pretty much stunned.

Hasmik meanwhile opens a small plastic bag and out comes a medical bandage of sorts. She bends down and starts wrapping her ankle in the bandage, and her face is turning green with pain. Finally she is done, the ankle is secured as much as possible. Hasmik opens a pill bottle and pops one. She then smiles at us. “Okay now.”

“Oh, man, how long can you keep this up?” Laronda shakes her head.

Hasmik sighs again, shrugs. “Don’t worry, I keep going,” she says softly in a steady voice. And amazingly she gets up, without even limping, picks up a change of clothing and heads to the bathroom. “We go to breakfast, okay?” she adds, glancing back at us.

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