Saint Anything Page 55

“The woozies?”

She nodded, resuming her cross-legged position. “My mom’s on a lot of meds. It takes, like, all of us to keep track of them and how often she takes them. Sometimes when she gets overtired or has too big a night, they make her dizzy and she wakes up confused. Sometimes she calls Rosie. But tonight it was me.”

She’d left the door open behind her; the living room was empty, the coffee table cluttered with beer cans and food wrappers. “How long has she been sick?”

“Since I was in sixth grade.” She laced her fingers together, examining her nails. “It wasn’t so bad at first. She was still walking the same, bossy as ever, hitting every yard sale every Saturday morning. But it’s a progressive disease. This last year has been really hard, and it’s only going to get worse.”

“There’s not a cure?”

“Nope.” She let her hands drop. “Drugs can do a lot, but eventually it will just break her body down to the point where she can’t function. Hopefully not for a while, though.”

I’d only known this family a short time, and it was a testament to the power of Mrs. Chatham’s personality that I couldn’t imagine them without her. Like my mom, she was that center of the wheel, with everyone connected drawing strength from her. She needed a saint of her own.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Yeah,” she replied, with the sad solidness of tone that came with the acceptance of an unpleasant fact. Even if it was just one word, you knew a million thoughts followed that were not said aloud. “Me too.”

The house was quieting now. Layla went down to her room to change into pajamas and brush her teeth, pointing me to the small bathroom where I could do the same. When I came out, there was no one around but Mac, at the coffee table with an open garbage bag, cleaning up.

“You need help?” I asked him.

“You don’t have to,” he replied.

I picked up some crumpled napkins and a couple of half-full plastic cups from a nearby end table anyway, sliding them into the bag. “Quite a party.”

“It’ll reek in the morning if I leave it like this,” he replied, tossing in a handful of bottle caps. “Plus it’ll feel like I slept in the recycling bin.”

“Sticky.”

“And stinky.” He picked up a heap of blanket, exposing one of the dogs, who snapped at him. Unfazed, he scooped it up and put it on the floor, and it slunk under the couch, glaring at us.

“Sorry about taking over your room,” I said to him.

“Not your fault.” He grabbed a stack of wet napkins, making a face. “Rosie’s always had a bit of an entitlement complex. Funny, she never ends up on the couch.”

“I told Layla I can sleep out here,” I told him. “I really don’t mind.”

“The dogs would eat you alive,” he replied.

“What?”

He smiled at the look on my face. He had a nice smile. Seeing it, I felt like I’d won a prize, because he was so sparing with them. “I’m speaking metaphorically. Although their gas does feel deadly at times.”

“Who’s got gas?” Layla asked, returning from the bathroom.

“The dogs,” I told her.

“Oh, God, no kidding.” She shuddered. “Don’t ever think of letting them under your covers. You’ll dream you’re suffocating. True story. You need another garbage bag?”

Mac nodded, and she padded off to the kitchen to get one. He and I kept cleaning in companionable silence until she returned, and then we all finished the job together. By the time Mac took the other sleeping bag and pillow out to the couch and we turned out the light, it was after one a.m.

Layla insisted I sleep in the bed, even though I told her I was fine on the floor. I knew she was just being a good host. Still, knowing that this was where Mac slept was both weird and thrilling. God, I was such a nerd.

Once the lights were out, she fidgeted around, getting comfortable. “I’m a thrasher,” she’d explained to me at my house before beginning these same adjustments. “But once I’m out, I am out. If you need me for anything, kick me. Hard. Okay?”

“Will do,” I’d said. In contrast, I was lying very still, my hands crossed over my chest. I tried to picture Mac in this same place each night, looking at this same ceiling, where his hybrid alarm clock was projecting the current time very brightly onto the ceiling above us: 1:22 a.m.

“God, I hate that thing,” Layla said. By her voice, I was guessing she was already drifting off. “The last thing I want to be reminded of every single time I wake up is how much longer I have to sleep.”

“Tomorrow’s Sunday, though,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but I take care of my mom in the mornings.” She yawned outright. “So I’m always up at six, when she is.”

“Oh. Right.”

A silence. Then she said, in a flat monotone, “One twenty-three a.m. Get to sleep, you loser. You’re already going to feel terrible tomorrow.”

I laughed, and she moved around a bit more, then told me good night. Moments afterward—but really, three minutes, at 1:26—I heard her breathing go deep and steady.

I, however, felt very awake. So at one forty-five, when someone started talking out in the living room, I heard it right away.

It was a girl’s voice first. I could tell by the tone, although I wasn’t able to make out what she was saying. Then, after a pause, a lower timbre. I rolled over, looking down at Layla, who was sound asleep, knees pulled to her chest.

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