She nods. “I know.” My mom grabs her stomach and takes a sharp breath.
“Nothing, I’m fine. I just need . . .” She stands, wobbles a bit, and then steadies herself against the wall.
I stand as well. “You don’t look so good.”
“I should go to bed.” She stumbles forward and catches herself on the back of my desk chair.
“Mom. Something is wrong.”
She grabs her stomach again and rushes out of my bedroom.
I follow her straight into the bathroom, where she barely makes it in time to vomit in the sink. The sink is now bright red. “Mom! Is that blood?”
She wipes at her mouth, smearing blood across her wrist. Then she coughs.
“Has that ever happened before?”
She shakes her head back and forth.
“Okay, we’re going to the hospital. Now.”
I pace the hall, waiting for the doctor to tell me what’s going on. I’ve been here for two hours. When he finally comes out I feel close to collapsing. He looks around and I’m wondering what he’s waiting for when he says, “Just you?”
“Just me?” I don’t understand his question.
“Is anyone else here with you?”
“Oh. No. Just me.” I feel bad. Maybe I should’ve called Matthew. He should be here. He has a right to know. I make a vow to find his number and call him as soon as I’m done talking to the doctor. “Please, is my mom okay?”
“She’s doing better. We’re running some tests, trying to rule some things out. We’ve given her something to help her sleep.”
“And um . . .” I don’t know how to say it. “Is the baby okay?”
“Baby?” His eyes get wide, and he looks at his clipboard. “Did she tell you she’s pregnant?”
“No. I just thought it was a possibility.”
“No. She’s not. But we’ll run a few more tests to verify.”
I’m ashamed for the tiny bit of relief I feel. I’m not ashamed for long, though, because with that possibility almost completely off the table I realize that means something more serious is wrong with her. The worry that takes over doesn’t leave any room for shame. “Is she sick?” I choke out.
“Yes, and we’re trying to figure out what’s causing it. We’ve ruled out some big things, so that’s good.” He pats my shoulder as if that will make what he’s saying feel better. “We’ll know something soon.”
“Can I see her?”
“She’s asleep and she needs to stay that way for now. I promise to call you as soon as she shows signs of waking.” He pauses and looks around again. “You really shouldn’t be alone right now.”
But I am alone. My mother is all I have. “I don’t have a cell phone.”
“What number would you like me to reach you at, then?”
There had been many times in my life where I was upset that I didn’t have a cell phone like every other teenager I know. But now, wanting to just go sit in the waiting room and fall asleep on the outdated couch, is the only time I’ve felt I might die without one. Maybe I should go to Skye’s. But what if Skye isn’t there? And her house is ten minutes farther away than the shop. Being ten minutes farther away from the hospital is not an option. I give him the shop number and leave.
I go immediately there and then upstairs, where I sit expectantly by the phone. This isn’t going to work. I need to keep my brain busy. There’s always something to do on the sales floor. In all my years of living at the doll store, I had never cleaned shelves at one o’clock in the morning. By the time I get to the front window, one wall’s worth of shelves is sparkling and I am sweating. I start on another wall. About halfway through the second shelf I find a name plaque without a doll. Carrie. I search the shelves, but she isn’t there. My mom must’ve sold her today and forgotten to put the name tag in the drawer for our next order.
We didn’t need to order Carrie, though. She’s popular: I knew we had at least two backups of her. She’s a sleeping baby, a newborn, with a peaceful look on her face. Everyone loves her. Even I think she is pretty cute, which is a small miracle, seeing as how nearly all the dolls creep me out.
I go to the back. Three boxes with “Carrie” written on the end are side by side on the second shelf. That shelf is low enough for me to reach without assistance so I grab the box down. Right away I know it’s empty by its weight, but I dig through it anyway, confirming my belief. I grab the next box down. Empty. I pull down every box, no matter what the name on the end. Soon the floor is littered with packing peanuts but not a single doll.
I now know how long it takes to pull down a whole wall of boxes and search through them. Forty-five minutes. I sink to the floor and put my forehead on my knees. I always thought I shouldered a lot of my mom’s burdens, did more than my fair share around the store, kept this place running, but it’s more than obvious she shouldered them alone. Why did my mom shut everyone out?
I am doing the same thing.
I grab the cordless off the shelf and dial.
It rings four times. “Hello?” the sleepy voice answers.
“I need you.”
When Skye walks into the stockroom she gasps. “What happened?”
“I made a mess of everything.”
She sits on the couch and pats the cushion next to her. I crawl to her side and lay my head in her lap. She plays with my hair, braiding and unbraiding a section.
“I’m a horrible person. I thought I’d rather die than have my mom be pregnant again. Now I feel like I’m dying.”
“Talk to me.”
“My mom is sick. She’s in the hospital. They wouldn’t let me stay.”
“So she’s not pregnant?”
“What’s Matthew’s deal, then?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they’re just dating. I should call him, shouldn’t I?” My head hurts. “I don’t have his number.”
“Don’t worry about it. Your mom is going to be okay. She’ll be able to call Matthew herself tomorrow.”
She runs her hand down my hair a few times. “So where’s Xander? Did he run to get you food or something?”
I squeeze my eyes shut, not wanting to think about the other horrible part of the evening. “He’s gone forever.”
“He thought I was rich, Skye. It’s the only reason he liked me.”
She coughs and adjusts her position on the couch. “Um . . . no offense, but he has been here, hasn’t he? Why would he ever think you were rich?”
“Because he knows my grandparents. My mom’s parents. And apparently they are some of the richest people in California.”
“They were there tonight at the benefit.”
“Wow. That’s crazy.”
I push myself to sitting. “It is crazy, right? I should be mad about it. At my mom. At Xander.”
“You’re mad at Xander because your grandparents are rich?”
“No. Because that’s the only reason he liked me.”
“Is that what he said?”
“Well, no. But . . .” I run my hands down my face. “But how is either of us ever going to know for sure one way or the other? Even if he claims he would’ve kept dating me either way, we’ll never know because he did know and we can’t prove anything now.”
Skye takes my hand in hers. “Not everything has to be proven. Maybe you should just trust him.”
“And what about my mom? Should I trust her, too? Because she lied to me my whole life. And I’m angry. And I feel guilty for being angry because she’s sick.” I flop back on the couch and stare at the ceiling.
“I understand. I’d be angry, too. But don’t you think they deserve to know she’s sick?”
I nod. I know she’s right. “Tomorrow, will you call Xander and get their information for me?”
“You don’t want to talk to him?”
I press my palms to my eyes. “No. And please don’t tell him what’s going on with my mom. The last thing I need is for him to feel sorry for me and come to see me out of guilt.”
“Yes, of course I’ll get their info for you.” She moves to the floor and lays her head next to mine on the couch. “Why don’t you try to sleep. I’ll watch the phone for you.”
“I can’t sleep.”
“Do you want Henry to come over? He can play his guitar. Maybe distract you for a while.”
“It’s three thirty in the morning. Don’t you think he’s asleep?”
She looks at her phone, which confirms the time. “Probably not. He’s a night owl.”
“I think night ends at two. He must be an early-morning owl.”
“Why does night end at two?”
“I don’t know. That’s usually as late as I can stay up so it must be when night ends.”
She laughs and fires off a text message. “If he answers he’s awake; if not he’s asleep.”
“Wow, that’s a pretty scientific way of determining whether someone is awake or asleep.”
She playfully taps my head. “I’m glad you haven’t lost your sarcasm.”
Sometime in the early morning I decide Henry is a nice guy. I’m glad Skye was able to see past his pointy nose. I fall asleep to his guitar playing.
When I open my eyes I see Skye across the room on the phone. I go from half asleep to fully aware in one second, springing off the couch and nearly tripping over Henry, who is asleep on the floor. She sees me coming and waves her hand at me, shaking her head. Then she mouths “Xander,” and I immediately turn back around and drop onto the couch. Hopefully she’s getting my grandparents’ info without too much trouble, and then he can completely rid his life of me.
“No,” Skye says. “She’s asleep.”
What time is it anyway? I reach down and twist the watch on Henry’s wrist so I can read it. Ten thirty in the morning. Wow. I got at least five hours of sleep. Then how come it still feels like someone bashed my face in with a bat? And why isn’t Skye off the phone yet? How long does it take to write down a phone number and address?
“Xander, please,” I hear her say. She’s too nice. I would’ve had the number by now. Maybe I should call the hospital while I’m waiting. I look for the phone but then realize Skye’s on it. Why didn’t she use her cell? What if the hospital is trying to call right now? My anger toward Xander is coming back full force.
“No,” Skye says with a sigh that sounds too sweet. I’m about to stand up and take the phone from her when she says, “Thank you,” and writes something on the paper she’s holding. “Yes. Of course, I’ll let her know.” She hangs up the phone.
“Let me know what?”
“That he wanted to talk to you.”