“Don’t forget to text me,” Sara insisted for the twentieth time when she
dropped me off after the track meet that Saturday. I waved in confirmation
with a rol of my eyes and walked up the driveway.
I prepared myself for whatever waited for me inside as I ascended the
steps to the deck. The dining room hummed with little voices. Carol’s
voice carried through the kitchen, talking to George, in a calmer than
“Emma!” I was greeted joyfuly by Leyla who attacked my legs before I
could bend down to embrace her.
“Put your things in your room,” Carol instructed passively.
“We’re about to sit down and eat.”
The pleasantness in her voice caused me to pause. I glanced around,
having a hard time believing that she was actualy talking to me. I
“How was your time with Sara?” she asked, glancing toward me when
I sat in my usual seat where a plate of spaghetti with meatbals was
already served at my setting.
“Fine,” I replied cautiously, stil uncomfortable with the attention.
“That’s great,” she smiled. The expression looked odd on her face, having
never truly seen her smile at me before. I waited for something
catastrophic to happen. But nothing did. Carol redirected the conversation
back to George. They discussed a trip to the hardware store the
next day to pick out flowers and shrubs for the front yard.
There were so many alarms going off in my head the second I walked
through the door the previous night, but there was no way I could have
known, or ever suspected her of being so cruel. Even when it became
obvious that this was her doing, it was stil difficult to understand what
“Wel, I guess you won’t be in any condition to go to your boyfriend’s
tonight, wil you?” Carol jeered, poking her head in the bathroom the
next morning. She closed the door behind her, leaving me in my
A cold sweat broke out across my forehead and down my back, right
before my stomach convulsed. My body quivered at the exertion that
kept me up throughout the night. I colapsed on the floor, pleading for
death, or at least sleep. How could I possibly have anything left in my
stomach after being in here for an entire night?
“You should cal them to let them know you won’t be able to make it,”
Carol belowed through the door. I glared in contempt at the closed
door, wishing she’d fal off a cliff.
I pushed myself up to sit against the bathtub, covering my face with
my shaking hands. I lifted myself from the floor and groaned when
every muscle in my body screamed in agony. My stomach turned
again, and I leaned over the toilet. Nothing happened, so I slowly
straightened to walk to the phone in the kitchen. The effort to move
was unbearable. My head was unsteady on my shoulders as I dragged
my body through the kitchen, cradling my stomach. When I reached
the phone, I realized I didn’t have Evan’s number memorized. I
groaned at the thought of having to get it from my room. Then I noticed
a piece of paper on the counter that had “Mathews” scribbled in
her writing. The phone number was written beneath it. How did she
have their number?
I pressed the numbers on the keypad, anticipating the voice on the
other end. The anxiety agitated my stomach; I clutched it with my free
arm as it began to rol. The phone rang several times before it was
“Helo?” Evan answered on the other end.
“Evan,” I said in a voice I barely recognized.
“Emma?” Evan confirmed, concern resounding in his voice.
“Are you okay?”
“I am so sick,” I rasped. “I have a stomach bug or something. I’m so
sorry I won’t be able to come to dinner tonight.”
“Do you need me to come get you?” he offered in alarm, skeptical of
“No, realy,” I pleaded. “I just need to go to bed.” My stomach gurgled
in warning, and I knew I couldn’t stay on the phone.
“I’l see you tomorrow morning?” he confirmed softly.
“Mmm,” I groaned in affirmation before hanging up the phone and
rushing back to the bathroom.
There was nothing left in me, but my body was determined to purge
any trace of whatever it was that had invaded it. The convulsions left
me weak and trembling. By the time night came around, I was finaly
able to make it to my bed, where I curled up under the covers and
wished I wouldn’t wake up again if this was how I was going to feel.
But I woke up anyway.
I somehow managed to prepare for school the next morning. I knew
that I wasn’t alowed to stay home alone, and the repercussions of having
Carol or George miss a day of work were more than I could fathom.
I showered and wrapped my wet hair in a low knot above my neck. I
sipped a glass of water, hoping it would relieve the trembling, before
making my way out the door. I practicaly colapsed in Evan’s car, wanting
so much to be under my covers again. I puled my knees into me
and buried my face in my arms. He didn’t say anything for a ful
minute after we puled away from my house. But a minute was al it
took for my stomach to register that I’d attempted to put something in
“Evan, pul over,” I whispered with an urgency that he recognized.
When the car stopped, I forced myself out and staggered to the back
just before my body rejected the fluid. I took a few cleansing breaths,
wiling the spasms in my stomach to stop while I supported myself on
the back corner of his car. I slipped back into the car and put my face
in my hands.
“You’re not going to school,” Evan determined. I could only groan. I
barely noticed where we were going until the car puled in his empty
“Evan, I can’t stay here,” I argued in a rasp. “I wil get in so much
trouble for missing school.”
“I’l have my mom cal in to excuse us.”
I gave in and opened the door, setting my feet on the ground and taking
an uneven breath before forcing my legs to receive my weight.
Evan hovered. I knew he wanted to help, but I shook my head to fend
him off. I folowed him through the house, alowing him to take off my
shoes after I colapsed on his bed. My eyes were closed the second I
was enveloped by the warmth of his blankets. His hand gently brushed
against my clammy face right before I drifted into a comatose sleep.
My eyes fluttered open in the dark space. I glanced around without
moving my head. I recognized the comforting scent and knew where I
was. Then I remembered why I was there and I moaned. Did he realy
see me throw up?
I peeked next to me and discovered that I was alone in the room. I
listened for the warning growls of my stomach, but my stomach was
calm, and my head was clear. I pressed my dry tongue to the roof of
my mouth, craving water. I pushed myself up to sit, grimacing at the
soreness of my abused back and stomach muscles. At least the excruciating
body aches had subsided. I stiffly moved to the bathroom to investigate
how horrible I looked. I wasn’t disappointed when I observed
the ghostly reflection staring back at me - I was a disaster. Was there
any way I could slip out and have Sara pick me up without Evan seeing
I let down my damp hair and combed my fingers through it, and I immediately
put it back in the elastic, horrified by the results. I rinsed my
face and mouth, attempting to be recognized as human again. I took a
dab of toothpaste and put in on my finger, rubbing it on my teeth and
tongue to conceal the aftermath of a day and a half of throwing up.
“Emma?” Evan caled from the bedroom.
I peeked out through the bathroom doorway.
“How are you feeling?” he asked cautiously.
“Like someone scraped me off the road.” He smiled at my answer, the
worry washing away. “Oh, and I look like it too.”
“No you don’t,” he assured, meeting me with open arms when I
stepped out of the bathroom. I alowed him to wrap me in his warm
embrace. He kissed the top of my head. “You look better than you did
this morning. I heard that people could look green, but I’d never seen
I tried to push away with a huff, but he tightened his hold, letting out a
“You stil look pale, though,” he observed. “Do you want to lie down?”
I nodded. He released me, and I slipped back under the blankets.
“I brought you some tea to try to get some fluids back into you, and it
shouldn’t upset your stomach - or at least that’s what my mother told
“Is she here?”
“No, but I had to tel her you were sick, so she would cal the school for
us. She’s caled a couple of times to check on you and to give me way
too much advice on how to take care of you. I tried to explain that you
were stil sleeping, but that didn’t stop her.”
Evan sat on the bed next to me, with his back against the headboard.
He eased me over so my head rested on his lap, then he drew his fingers
along my hairline. I closed my eyes, soothed by the tingling that
traced his touch.
“What time is it?” I whispered.
“I can’t believe I slept that long.”
“Me either. I had to check a few times to make sure you were stil
breathing. You never moved.”
“I’m stil breathing,” I assured him quietly, with a smal smile.
“I’m glad you’re feeling better.” He ran his hand down the back of my
neck. The warm chils continued down my spine. I sat up and searched
for the tea on the table next to the bed. I took the smalest sip and let
the warmth settle in my stomach before I felt it was safe to drink more.
“You stil have your state ID from your trip with Sara, right?”
Evan asked out of nowhere.
“Yes,” I answered slowly.
“Do you have access to your birth certificate and social security card?”
he inquired further. I drew my eyebrows together and remained silent.
“I think you should try to get them – just in case,” he explained. I
knew he was serious, and that’s what made it so strange to hear. He
realy was prepared to escape with me.
“I can tel George I need them to apply to the camp this summer.
You’re realy serious about this?” I asked, studying his face.
“Yes, I am.” I dropped my eyes, struck with the understanding of what
he’d be giving up too. Going into hiding would mean sacrificing his
family and friends, not to mention dropping out of high school.
“Evan, it’s not going to come to that. I mean, realy – where would we
“Don’t worry,” he consoled with confidence. “I’ve given it a lot of
thought. Besides, it wouldn’t be permanent.”
I decided not to question him further in fear of hearing any more of his
plan. I refused to admit that it would ever get so bad that we’d be
forced to run away. Evan believed in this plan because it was the only
thing that he thought he could do to help me. It wasn’t realistic, but I
wasn’t going to tel him that. I did get the documents from George.
Evan was relieved. But I wasn’t. I couldn’t tel him that I was paralyzed
with fear at the thought of leaving and that I wasn’t convinced I could
do it. He just had to believe I could - at least until I was forced to