“Don’t do that to me.”



“Put your faith on me. I can’t take that kind of pressure right now, okay? I just can’t take it!”

“I did not mean—”

“Just don’t,” I say, and then go to the bathroom.

I stay in the bathroom for a long time—until I hear FC walk down the steps and leave Donna’s house.






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Ty visits my bedroom solo and says, “I brought you this.” He places a clear vase with a single rose and some baby’s breath on my dresser, and then adds, “How you feeling?”

“Crappy,” I say from under my comforter; I don’t even sit up.

“I’ve been thinking about you a lot, Amber.”

I haven’t thought about Ty even once in the last few weeks, so I don’t say anything.

“I don’t really know what to say about what happened,” Ty continues, “and it seems like you don’t want to talk about it, so I’m just going to talk about other stuff, okay?”

With my head still on my pillow, I just look at Ty, who is leaning his butt against my new dresser.

He swallows once and says, “The Marketing Club regionals are next week.”

“I know.”

“We’ve been practicing pretty hard. The team and all. Maybe Ricky told you, but Franks has us debating and practicing our pitches in the morning instead of playing Halo 3. We debate at lunch too. We’re on a video game hiatus until after regionals. We’re all pretty nervous and excited. We think we can place this year, no sweat.”

“Good luck.”

“You’re really not going to compete this year, are you?”


“You would take first place if you did. We’d all do better, if—”

“Well, I’m not competing, so I’m not taking any place. And The Five will just have to be The Four, because I’m out.”

Ty smiles sorta weird and then says, “I’m going to win regionals for you. I’ll even give you the red ribbon. I’m going to do it for you. Then we’ll take The Five to nationals. Would you come to Vegas with us if I won?”


“We miss you. All of us. The entire Five.”

“I’m sorry my mother’s murder has inconvenienced you.”

Ty’s eyes narrow as if I had sucker-punched him. “Why you being like that?”

“Like what?”

“So mean.”

“Because I’m a cat—a real bitch.”

“No you’re not. You’re the coolest girl I ever met. I’ve always admired you, Amber. And maybe I didn’t say it before, but—”

“Just leave.”

Ty looks at me for a second, and then says, “I thought maybe sometime The Five could like maybe share a sundae at Friendly’s? We could all go to the one in Hampton, so no one would know, if you are afraid of being seen outside the house. You could sneak out one night. I got my license last week. It was my birthday, remember? I sent you an invitation to my party. Did you get it? Ricky came.”

I remember throwing it out, but do not say so.

“Maybe Ricky told you my dad bought me an old Volvo station wagon. I’ve been driving Ricky to school and all. My ride’s outside actually. So I was thinking maybe I could take you out sometime?”



“Hell no,” I say, and then I walk over to my desk and pretend to do my assignments.

Ty stands there for a few minutes, and then he leaves.

A week or so after Ty visits solo, I receive an envelope with a second place Marketing Club ribbon in it. A note reads:


I tried to win for you. I really did.

Franks said I was robbed by the judges.

My Friendly’s offer still stands.


PS—M.C. regionals weren’t as much

fun without you. Everyone else agrees.

Even Franks said it. If Ricky hasn’t told

you already, no one made nationals.



“Yes, Father Chee?”

“I am sorry.”

“For what?”

“For putting unneeded pressure on you. For putting a cross on you when you are already suffering. It was wrong of me. Selfish.”

I don’t say anything.

“Unless you ask me to keep coming, I will no longer come to visit you every day. In fact, I will never come again if you do not ask me to come. I want to help you, yes, but I also have been coming here because I need to believe that you are someone I need you to be, so that my faith will be increased. This is not fair to you. You spoke this truth the last time we talked. So this is the last time I will come to your room uninvited. The Korean Divas for Christ miss you very much and would love to sing with you again, but they will be just fine if you choose never to return to us. It is your life to do with as you wish, and you should make the decisions you think are best. I will be praying that you are who you need to be, always. And for selfish reasons, I hope that I will see you again soon. But Father Chee will also be okay either way, so do not worry about him. Goodbye.”

When Father Chee turns to leave I want to hug him and tell him to stay—that I want him to keep coming every day—but for some reason, I say nothing.

FC does not come the next day, and I am equal parts surprised, angry, and sad.






Easter comes and goes.

I do not go to church.

I do not celebrate the resurrection.






Jared and Chad-in-a-backpack visit me again for the first time in weeks.

“I know you told us not to come,” Jared says.

“But we came anyway,” says Chad.

“Did Ty really come here solo?” Jared asks.

“Yeah,” I say.

“He’s growing a beard,” Chad says.

“What?” I ask.

“Ty says he’s not going to shave until you come out of your room and agree to go to Friendly’s with us,” Chad says.

“He’s calling it a friendship beard,” Jared says. “Says it’s an outward sign of his support for the reunification of The Five.”

“And he grew a full beard in days!” Chad says. “He’s beginning to look like Bin Laden.”

“What? Why?” I ask.

“Because his beard is getting all long and pointy at the chin,” Chad says. “Not because he actually wants to look like a terrorist or anything like that. Ty’s a patriot. Red, white, and blue—tried-and-true.”

“No, why is he growing a beard? Seriously.”

“As an outward sign of his support for you,” Jared says. “Just like I told you. It’s a friendship beard.”

“But I’m not seeing the beard, because I’m in my room, so why would he grow one?”

“He sorta sent us here today to tell you about it,” Chad says. “Show her, brother.”

Jared flips open his cell phone, hits a few buttons, and suddenly bearded Ty is smiling through the little square screen. His beard is sort of pointy at the chin, but he looks nothing like Bin Laden.

“We wanted to see you anyway,” Jared says, “because we miss you a lot and we feel really badly about your missing Marketing Club regionals and refusing to be a part of The Five. But Ty is really worried about you. He’s really upset.”

Jared says, “So what should we tell him?”

“Tell him?” I say.

“What’s your reply?” Chad asks.

“I don’t know,” I say.

“Will you—maybe go to Friendly’s with us?” Chad asks.

“I’m not going anywhere right now,” I say.

“But maybe you maybe will—like—go to Friendly’s again with us in the future?” Jared asks.

I sigh. This is ridiculous.

“Okay,” Chad says. “We’ll take that as a maybe and leave before you change your mind.”

When they leave, I sigh and shake my head.

I hear Donna ask Chad and Jared how it went, and they say “Pretty good” just before I hear them exit through the front door.






“Do you notice anything different?” Donna asks me. She’s sitting down on the side of my bed, rubbing my back lightly with her hands. She’s been doing this lately. She also has been combing my hair at night. I don’t say anything to her about this—because I secretly like it when she rubs my back and combs my hair, as if I were a little girl again and she were my mom.

Donna’s not my mom—my mom is dead—but it still feels good.

I don’t say anything to Donna, because I’m still being a cat.

“When was the last time you saw Bobby Big Boy?” Donna asks me after rubbing my back for—like—fifteen minutes or so.

I think about it, and suddenly, my heart starts beating really fast.

It’s been days—maybe weeks.

No, it can’t be.

When was the last time I saw BBB?

I haven’t thought about BBB even once for so long.

I am a terrible pet owner.

I sit up.

“Bobby Big Boy?” I yell.

“Shhh,” Donna says, “he’s sleeping downstairs.”

“Is something wrong with him?”

“Well. He’s been acting a little funny,” Donna says. “So—I’m just going to say this, Amber—I called a veterinarian today.”


“Bobby Big Boy has had a lot of diarrhea lately. He hasn’t been eating regularly. He’s been lethargic—looking sort of unthrifty. And today when I took him for a walk he—well—he collapsed.”


“He recovered. He’s okay now. But I’m taking him to the vet in a few minutes, and I wanted to know if you wanted to go with me.”

I run downstairs and find BBB in his room, lying on his bed.

His eyes are glassy.

He doesn’t even pick up his head when I walk into the room.

I pick him up in my arms and kiss him.

“I’m sorry, B3. I’m so so sorry I’ve neglected you. I’m here now. I’m here.”

His eyes look so sad—defeated.

I hate myself for neglecting him, for not noticing that he was suffering—I’m such a cat, such a bad pet owner.

I finally leave the house.


Donna drives B Thrice and me to the veterinarian. Ricky stays home and does math problems.

“Do you think Bobby Big Boy might die?” I ask Donna in her Mercedes, with BBB curled up in my lap.

“Let’s not jump to any conclusions,” she says.

“So you think this could be serious?”

“He’s a relatively young dog, and pet medicine is good these days. We’re taking him to the best veterinarian in the tri-state area. Dr. Weissmuller at Weissmuller Pets of Childress.”

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