Mr. Landa was overjoyed to hear that Mary wanted to volunteer at the hospital. He said it was an excellent opportunity for her, and he thought being in a different social structure would really open her eyes to her self worth.
“What made you decide to volunteer at the hospital?”
“Well, I heard Vicky was there in a coma, and I figure this will give me access to her room so I can Sharpie a mustache on her without getting caught.”
Mr. Landa’s pleased smile slipped off his face. “Mary, the hospital is not a place for you to goof around. Volunteering there is a very serious responsibility. The nurses and doctors will expect a high level of maturity from you. I will not write this recommendation unless you convince me that you will present that while there.”
Mary was surprised by Mr. Landa’s seriousness and quickly scrambled to reflect it. “I want to make people feel better. I know I can’t make them well, but I want to help in some way. I am serious about going there and helping people. Even Vicky, if she needs it.”
“You want to help people?” Mary could tell he didn’t fully believe her. She was going to have to convince him.
“Yes, the whole reason I want to do this is to help people. I feel like I need to. If I don’t do this, it will come back,” Mary’s throat caught as she realized the cliché she was about to say and how possible it was, “And haunt me.”
Mr. Landa nodded and picked up the recommendation form. “Okay, I’ll fill this out and send it in. Do you have someone else to ask for a recommendation?”
Mary nodded. “Yes, Mrs. Pillar has already agreed to recommend me. She’s a nurse at the hospital.”
“She sounds very appropriate. Have you chosen which program you’d like to be in?”
“The hospitality cart sounds good. I’ll go around and ask people if they want books or games and give them whatever I have on the cart. I figure I can do that.”
Mr. Landa nodded. “That sounds like an excellent program. Just be sensitive to people’s needs. The hospital is not a place people want to be, but they have to be there. Just be mindful of that, and you should do fine.”
Mary nodded, surprised by Mr. Landa’s insight into the matter. He may not get her at all, but he could be pretty perceptive every once in a while.
“You mentioned Vicky. I hope you understand how terrible her accident is and how much worry and strain it is putting on her family and friends. Her condition is not a laughing matter and should be handled with respect even if no well feelings are present.”
Remembering Mrs. Neilson’s tear covered face, Mary looked down at her clasped hands. “I know. I shouldn’t have made that joke. I’ll wait until she regains consciousness to mustachio her.”
Mr. Landa snorted softly. “I am serious, Mary. There are a lot of people worried about Vicky. You may not share their concern, but you should at least respect it.”
She twisted her fingers. She knew who was concerned. Cy was concerned. He had come to school that day, but he looked awful. He had bags under his eyes, and he was moving slowly. He looked like he’d spent weeks by Vicky’s bedside. People were already whispering how romantic it was, just like Sleeping Beauty.
“I do respect the concern. I’m sorry I keep making jokes, but it seems unreal. I feel like I just spoke to her.” Mr. Landa nodded. “I understand. Hopefully she’ll wake up before you start to miss her. I’ll work on this recommendation. I really think this will be good for you.”
Mary nodded in relief. The bell ending fifth period rang. Mr. Landa waved her out as he turned to his computer.
As she exited the guidance counselor’s office, she looked toward a side door out of the building. She debated on whether to skip sixth period, but she had to turn in a paper and didn’t want to get it marked off for being handed in late, but she worried about where Cy would sit. He’d always sat beside her in class, but now, it felt like he shouldn’t. He was dating Vicky. She felt betrayed and like she was the other woman. How could he have hung out with her while being interested with Vicky? She’d go to class. If Cy didn’t sit beside her, it would be a clear signal that their friendship was over. He hadn’t spoken to her since the accident anyway. Maybe their friendship was over already.
She took her usual seat at the back of the class. She watched the door as her classmates streamed in. When Cy entered, she felt a jolt go through her like she’d been electrocuted, even though it was him she’d been watching for. She didn’t blink as he came straight to the back and slipped into the seat beside her.
She looked out the side of her eyes at him. He had a cast on his left arm and a serious sling holding it in place. He looked exhausted.
“Hey, how are you doing?” she asked.
Cy leaned back in his chair and stared ahead. “Can I Xerox your notes after class?”
“Sure.” She was a little put off by his coolness to her, but the day had probably been really rough for him. Everyone had been giving him looks and talking about him. She knew how awful that was, but then usually the looks directed at her were nasty and the talk mean, but still it had to be tiring.
She thought about asking about Vicky but bit her tongue. She couldn’t do it. She really didn’t want to hear what he had to say, but she didn’t know what else to talk to him about.
She looked across the room to the conspicuously vacant seat. All three of them had shared this class. But she hadn’t known anything was going on between them.
Mrs. Myers began class by collecting their papers. Cy, of course, didn’t have one. He got an extension.
Mary tried to pay attention. But her eyes kept wandering back to the empty seat. How had she missed this? Why hadn’t Cy mentioned anything?
She was nervous as she wrote it, but she still passed him the note.
So you and Vicky were on a date?
Cy grabbed her pen and scratched a reply slowly with his right hand.
Yes. Don’t want to discuss it.
Mary’s head swiveled to him. ‘Don’t want to discuss it?’ She’d thought they were friends. They ate lunch together. They sat beside each other in class. She’d thought they’d both disliked Vicky. He’d sat beside her to stay away from Vicky!
Cy was watching the teacher intently. He wouldn’t even glance at her. She’d seriously held out a slim hope that Vicky had tricked him into the date, or maybe that the reports were wrong, maybe they hadn’t been on a date. But he was not bolstering her hope, he was destroying it. How could he have done this to her?
She didn’t even try to make her notes neat and legible. She barely paid attention to Mrs. Myers’ lecture. It was petty, and was hurting her as much as Cy, but she was mad. And hurt. If he chose to go out with a girl like Vicky, then he wouldn’t choose to go out with a girl like her. It was simple really. If someone enjoyed bright, warm, tropical islands, then that someone wouldn’t enjoy dark, cold, artic plateaus. Mary sat back and got colder. Most people preferred bright, warm, tropical islands. That’s why they were popular vacation spots. Dark, cold, artic plateaus didn’t get many tourists. And the few who did go probably wished they’d taken the plane to Cozumel.
When the bell rang, Mary gathered her things. “I’ll go make copies of my notes in the library. Do you want to wait at the front of school for me to bring them out?”
He hung his book bag on his good shoulder. “No, I’ll go with you.”
She didn’t reply and exited the room. They walked in silence to the library while students streamed around them in the opposite direction. Mary caught herself glancing at Cy to make sure he wasn’t getting jostled by the other students. Walking against the flow in a crowd had to be dangerous for his arm. She felt like a sucker for worrying about him.
She walked into the library and went to the copier. Another student was already using it. She stood back to wait. Cy came up beside her. He held out his hand. It had a dollar in change in it.
She took the change stiffly and set about ignoring him again. It was what one was supposed to do with strangers.
“I knew you’d be upset if you heard I went out with her.”
She stopped ignoring him. “Oh, so now we can discuss it?”
He winced. “I didn’t want to try explaining it in notes with my right hand.”
“Was it your first date?”
“There were unofficial dates?”
“We’d gotten together a few times to study, and there were group things.”
“You hung out with her friends?”
His back stiffened. “It was Key Club stuff. She joined too.”
“So you hung out in Key Club and studied together. For someone who doesn’t like her, you sure do hang out with her a lot.”
“I don’t dislike her.”
She had figured this out. She’d known this, but hearing Cy say it still felt like a punch to her gut. “Hanging out with me must really piss her off.”
“She’s not thrilled with it, but she can’t pick my friends. She knows that, and she’s cool with it, but I guess my friends think they can pick who I date.”
“Oh no, you don’t get to play it like that. I was never the bad guy here. You didn’t tell me squat. I didn’t even know you liked her. In fact, I thought you didn’t like her, Mr. ‘I could feel my IQ dropping from osmosis’, now suddenly, you two are dating? What? When? How?”
“You forgot where.”
“I know where. The movie theater. What did you two see?”
Mary was really starting to hate this conversation. She, Rachel, and Cy had talked about going to see that movie together. She looked over at the copier and hurried to it when she saw it was free. She needed to get away from him. Forget dreams with a non-comatose Vicky, this was a much worse nightmare.
She slapped her notebook onto the scanner bed and fed the quarters into the machine. She hit the green button.
“Look, I’m sorry I kept my thing with Vicky from you, but I didn’t want to make it into a big drama, especially if nothing happened. It was one date. We aren’t a couple.”
“Now she’s in a coma, and you’re sitting by her bedside until she wakes up.” She flipped a page and jabbed the green copy button.
“I’m worried about her.”
“Is it just worry? Would you have gone out with her again if the accident hadn’t happened?”
He didn’t reply. She halfway ripped out a page of her notes as she turned it to scan the final sheet. When the last page spat out, she grabbed up the sheets, shoved them at him, and stormed out of the library.
She ignored him. It was what one was supposed to do with strangers.
She walked down the hall toward the stairs. She was trying hard not to think because she didn’t like anything currently swirling around in her head. She needed a distraction. Something to take her mind off Cy, Vicky, and the joke that was her love life. She couldn’t stop the gargling laugh that came out at the thought of her having a love life. Who was she kidding?
She tried to pretend not to have heard Kyle, but he didn’t get the hint that she didn’t want to talk. “Hey Mary, wait up.”
She stopped and turned toward him, but she couldn’t bring herself to look him in the eye. “If you’re looking for Cy, he’s in the library.”
“Thanks, but he’ll find me. I’m not his nursemaid.”
She smiled thinly and turned towards the stairs.
“Are you all right?”
She didn’t turn around. “I’m peachy. See ya around, Kyle.” She began speed walking to the stairs.
“Mary, wait!” She didn’t stop. She needed to get away from school. It was way past time for this day to be over. She couldn’t take anymore.
She was halfway down the stairs when Kyle came into the stairwell. He called down from the top to her. “He’s a jerk. You shouldn’t let him bother you.”
She stopped and looked up at him. “That’s rich, coming from you.”
His face fell. She knew it was wrong for her to have said that, but she was hurting and wanted to lash out. Kyle wasn’t one of the people hurting her, but one of those people was in a coma, and the other had an arm in a sling. She couldn’t lash out at them. She shook her head.
“Don’t listen to me, Kyle. I’m a jerk too.” She turned and finished going down the stairs. He didn’t call out to her again.
As she was walking home, Rachel rolled up in her mom’s station wagon. “Get in, we have some serious cramming to do.”
She’d totally forgotten her promise to help Rachel study. She climbed into the car. “Sorry, I forgot.”
Rachel looked over at her. Mary knew she didn’t look good. “You still up for it?”
She nodded. Rachel began driving again. They were supposed to be going to the library. “Did you talk to Cy today?”
She sighed and slumped down. “Yeah.”
“He likes Vicky. He knew it would upset me if he told me. They’re totally a couple.”
She nodded again. Rachel shook her head in silent commiseration. Mary straightened in her car seat. “I’m done dwelling on it. Let’s get you all biology-ed up.”
“Now you’re talking.”
“Hey, did your Crafts teacher agree to write the recommendation?”
Rachel nodded her head. “Yeah, but Dad said that if I don’t get my grade up in Biology he won’t let me volunteer. I have to ace this test.”
“Wow, that’s like even more motivation.”
“You say motivation. I say pressure.”
“You’re gonna ace it. Where are the flash cards?” She reached into the back and grabbed Rachel’s book bag.
Rachel’s eyebrows rose. “I think studying in the car on the way to the library is like an example of the absolute reverse of procrastination. Is there even a word for that?”
“We’re studying Bio not English. Now, while studying a cell through an electron microscope, you note the following: numerous ribosomes, a well-developed endoplasmic reticulum, chloroplasts, and a cell wall. What did this cell come from?”
She flipped the card. “Correct!” She flipped to the next card. “The bonding of two amino acid molecules to form a larger molecule requires what?”
“The release of a water molecule.”
She flipped the card. “Correct!”
“You know Mr. Huchins said that you shouldn’t allow too many distractions while driving, or you could end up in an accident.”
She looked through the windshield. “We’re at a stoplight.”
“One should always be vigilant.”
Mary tucked the cards back into Rachel’s book bag. “Fine, but we’re getting through all of them at the library.”
“But don’t you want to do some research into Vicky’s demonic stalker?”
“And how am I supposed to search for it? I don’t know anything about it except it claws at her.”
“Vicky didn’t tell you anything else?”
“No, Vicky did not tell me anything else.” Mary didn’t really like having this conversation because 1) Vicky was in a coma, 2) Vicky was supposedly talking to her in her dreams, 3) It was something spooky weird, and of course, she was supposed to know something about it, but in reality, she didn’t have a clue what was going on, and 4) Cy was totally dating her. “And stop trying to wheedle out of studying by researching ghosts and goblins.”
“Ooh, do you think it’s a goblin?”
“Ask Mr. Fletcher.”
Mary ignored her and read the next index card. “In humans, primary oocytes are located in the?”
Rachel ignored her back. “Ask him.”
“Answer the question.”
“Ovaries. Ask him.”
Mary put the cards down and looked at the ceiling. They were in the microfilm section. It was deserted because no one used microfilm if they didn’t have to. “Mr. Fletcher, are you here?”
She waited for an acknowledgement. Nothing happened. Rachel could tell she didn’t get a response. “Hey, Mr. Fletcher! We got a research question!”
The live librarian stuck her head around the corner. “Do you girls need help?”
Mary was shaking her head when Rachel said, “Yes, ma’am. Can you show us how to get information on patients at the hospital?”
The librarian strolled back to them so Rachel wouldn’t continue shouting across the room. This was supposed to be a quiet area. “You want patient information?”
“Yes,” Rachel said. She rolled her eyes a little. Mary wanted to kick her.
The librarian, whose nametag said Elizabeth, took Rachel’s response in stride. “I’m afraid patient information is very sensitive. The hospital only gives that out to the patient, close family, or to someone with a court order. What exactly are you trying to find?”
“How many coma patients are at the hospital?”
Elizabeth blinked. “I’m sorry, girls, but that sort of information wouldn’t be available.”
“How about how many coma patients died at the hospital?”
She shook her head. “I’m really sorry. But that kind of hospital specific information is not available. I could maybe find you national numbers if you’re interested in those?”
Rachel shook her head. “Thanks, but we were interested in only the local hospital. We’ll surf the net for something else.”
Elizabeth nodded. “Well, just get me if you need any help.”
When the librarian was gone, Rachel sighed and cradled her chin with her fists. “I suppose Mr. Fletcher didn’t show up while we were talking to her, did he?”
“No. We should get back to studying. That is why we’re here.”
Rachel made a face, but couldn’t deny her statement. “What is found in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells?”
Rachel stared into space. She waited for her to answer. While she waited, she flipped the card and looked at the answer. Rachel still didn’t appear ready to answer.
“It starts with an ‘R’.”
Rachel straightened with enlightenment. “Mom!”
“What?” Mary didn’t follow.
“I can ask her how many coma patients there are. Come on, I gotta get home.” She stood and slung on her book bag.
“But what about studying?”
“I’m good. I haven’t gotten one wrong, have I?”
Mary looked at the stack of cards that they hadn’t gotten to yet. “Rach, you’re procrastinating.”
“No, you’re avoiding your duty.”
“You have to help Vicky, but because she’s like spite incarnate and dating Cy, you don’t want to help her so you’re dragging your feet when you should be marching around this library asking for Mr. Fletcher.”
Mary narrowed her eyes. “What’s found in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells?”
Rachel screwed up her mouth.
She flipped to the next card. “When hydrogen ions are pumped out of the mitochondrial matrix, across the inner mitochondrial membrane, and into the space between the inner and outer membranes, the result is?”
Rachel crossed her arms and stared her down.
“Are you not answering because you won’t or because you don’t know the answers?”
Rachel lifted her chin.
She flipped to another card. “What possesses a microtubular structure similar in form to a basal body?”
She watched Rachel closely. She still stood defiant, but there was uncertainty around her eyes. Mary lowered the flash cards. “Maybe the reason I’m not gung-ho on helping Vicky is because I don’t know the answers either.”
“I know the answers,” she muttered.
Rachel turned her nose away, but she did sit back down.
“What possesses a microtubular structure similar in form to a basal body?” Mary repeated.
Rachel rocked a little in her seat.
“It starts with a ‘C’.”
Rachel rocked more.
“I can’t give you anymore hints because frankly I have no idea what this question is talking about.”
She waited for her to reply, but she was in one of her monumental stubborn moods. Mary sighed and pushed the cards toward her. “Look, what I need to know will not be in any book or newspaper. I have to go to the hospital and walk around if I’m going to get any idea of what is hurting Vicky, but the hospital isn’t going to just let us snoop around. We need to enter the volunteer program, and the only way you’re going to get into the program is if you ace this test so let’s get studying. All right?”
Rachel worked her jaw a bit but finally said, “Centrioles.”
She glanced at the note card. Rachel was right.
Rachel looked over to her with a small grin. “You know, we’re going through an awful lot of trouble for Vicky.”
“Don’t remind me. Focus on all of the other nameless patients that we might be helping.”
“Yeah, it’s too bad none of them contacted you in your dreams for help. Does this mean she has like psychic ability?”
Mary shuddered as she recalled her first dream. “I hope not. A psychic Vicky would be terrible. Now no more Vicky talk. What is the function of water in photosynthesis?”
Continue to Chapter 4