The nurse tries to make more small talk as she starts the IV. I’ll be here for two hours, which sucks. But afterward the inflammation and pain in my joints will subside, at least for a little while. I’m excited about that.
I’m not excited about the side effects of Remicade, the medicine about to drip into my body. Last time I puked and had a headache for days. I also wanted to sleep, because I felt like I had no energy and couldn’t even keep my eyes open. I hope this time is different.
The nurse puts the IV in my vein. I turn away, but my mom watches as if the medicine will cure her daughter. There is no cure though.
As soon as my mom leaves and the medicine is dripping slowly into my body, I settle back into the big leather recliner at the hospital and close my eyes. Being here makes me feel like I’m incapable of living a normal life without meds. I don’t know how anyone in their right mind would take meds if they didn’t need them.
Leaning my head back, I imagine I’m anywhere else but here.
“I don’t understand how someone who can hardly move without meds wants to be a mechanic.”
I quickly jerk my eyes open at the sound of Vic Salazar’s voice. He’s standing in front of me, staring at the Remicade drip. Ugh. “What are you doing here?”
“I figured I’d keep you company,” he says, sitting in the chair my mom abandoned a few minutes ago.
“How… I didn’t… you shouldn’t be here, Vic. I told you not to tell anyone about my condition.”
“Relax. I didn’t blab.”
I look over at him. He’s got his hands crossed on his chest as if he’s a sentry looking after me.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in school? How did you know I was here? How did you get a visitor’s pass up here?”
He rolls his eyes. “Yeah, I’m supposed to be in school. I was called into Finnigan’s office and heard the attendance office get the call from your mom that you were in the hospital for treatment today. I got up here ’cause I mentioned my dad’s name to the receptionist in the lobby. He’s kinda given a shitload of donations to this place.”
“You’re going to get in trouble for ditching,” I tell him.
He winks at me, and butterflies dance around in my stomach. “Ask me the last time I cared about gettin’ into trouble?”
My throat is dry as he steps closer. “Why did you come here?”
“To convince you that it’s stupid to work at Enrique’s Auto Body. You’ll end up hurtin’ yourself.”
My spirits lower at his words. “You have no faith in me, just like Trey.”
“Oh, I have faith in you, Monika. I think you can do whatever the hell you want to do. I just think it’ll end up with you regrettin’ it. Look at you,” he says, gesturing to the drip going into my veins. “I’m your friend. Listen to me and don’t work at a place that could land you in the hospital. Or worse.”
“Thanks for caring, Vic. But I’m going to do this whether you tell me to or not.”
“You’re stubborn like my cousin,” he says, disappointed. “Your ego is in the way of all reason. I know this is gonna sound corny, but we’ll be on this earth for less than a hundred years, then our time is up. I don’t want you to waste it doin’ things that aren’t worth your time. I like workin’ at the shop. You’re doin’ it just to prove you can. That’s not a good enough reason.”
The nurse comes in to take my blood pressure. “I see we have a visitor,” she says. “Are you the boyfriend taking her to homecoming?”
Vic shakes his head, then looks away.
“No,” I say, my face turning red at the thought of Vic being my boyfriend. “He’s just a friend.”
The nurse checks my vitals. “Well, he’s a mighty special friend to sit here with you while you go through treatment.”
“Yeah,” I say, briefly wondering what it would feel like to have a guy like Vic as my boyfriend. I quickly toss that thought away as I look at the monitor and see my blood pressure rising quickly. “He is mighty special.”
I wish he wouldn’t have come here just to convince me to give up on working at the auto body shop. I guess if I wanted someone to believe in me, I’d want it to be Vic.
On Thursday after school, Dieter tells all of us to gather around him in the locker room before we suit up for practice.
“Tomorrow isn’t just homecoming. It’ll be one of our biggest games,” Coach Dieter tells us. He stands in the middle of the locker room, scanning the team as if he’s sizing us up. “We’re playing our biggest rivals. I’ve been hearing rumblings that Fairfield High is better than us. Is that true?”