Later, when I awoke, the bedroom was dark except for the streetlight streaming in from behind Saint Michael the Archangel on the wall between the two windows. I thought about Alison and how she had stood up to Sister Rosalind Basil, The Razor Blade. Alison was the only thing that made the thought of going back to that class the next day bearable. I watched the Archangel on the wall, the light behind him, feathery wings, sword held high, stepping on the serpent, then fell asleep again.
Later, I awoke to a dark room. Pretty soon I heard my favorite sound again, the one I waited for every day—the squeal of the gate and Michael bounding up the hallway stairs, the kitchen door opening, then slamming shut. The kitchen cabinet opened, banged shut. He’d be looking for something to eat, like a bear in a campground. I smiled at the thought. When he was home, home to stay for the night, it was as if Teresa and her doctors didn’t exist. I was safe for a while, the only time I smiled, though now thinking about Alison was having that effect on me, too.
Michael appeared at the door of the bedroom, carrying a half-eaten banana with a brown-spotted peel in one hand and a bowl of cheap cornflakes with milk in the other.
“Hey, Shorty,” he said. He sat down on the bed next to me. “Grenelli paid me today. I got some more milk. You want some? I got you a Mr. Goodbar, too, but eat the cereal first.”
“Okay,” I said. The last thing I had eaten was those few bites of the second peanut butter and jelly sandwich he’d made me, when the doctor had called.
“Here,” he said. He threw the candy bar on the bed and shoved the bowl of cereal at me. “Eat this. I’ll go get another one.”
I picked up the candy bar as he jumped up and flew out the doorway. As I sat up and balanced Michael’s heavy bowl of cornflakes on my lap, I could hear him banging around in the kitchen getting himself more cereal. I spooned up a cornflake and sucked the milk off it. My stomach insides were raw. I chewed the cornflake slowly before swallowing it. Then, I picked up another one. Michael bounded back into the room and fell back on the bed next to me, his warm, solid leg up over my skinny one still under the blanket. He dug his spoon into his cereal and crunched a mountain of flakes between his teeth. The veins on either side of his forehead moved up and down as he chewed.
“So, how you doin’?” he asked me through crunching flakes. “What’s this about you being sick? What’s wrong with you, anyway?”
Teresa had told me countless times that if Michael ever knew about my sickness he’d go away forever because then he would know I was bad and he wouldn’t love me anymore. The truth was I had no idea what was wrong with me.
“Oh, I’m not sick anymore,” I lied. I sucked the milk from another cornflake, trying to act as if it were true. The sucking made a lot of noise.
“Then why’d she say the doctor was coming tomorrow.” More crunching of cornflakes and bulging veins. His cereal bowl was already almost empty.
“Oh, but the doctor’s not coming anymore after this time,” I lied some more. “I guess he just wants to be sure.” I tried to sound as if the doctor stuff didn’t bother me. I hated lying to Michael. It made the cornflakes and milk start moving back up my throat.
“He wants to be sure of what?” He clanked the bowl and spoon down on the nightstand, still chomping the last mouthful of cornflakes.
“Oh, he just wants to be sure I’m not sick anymore.”
Michael’s eyebrows scrunched together the way they did when something didn’t make sense to him. I handed him my bowl of cornflakes.
“How come you didn’t finish your cereal?”
“I’m full.” Another lie.
Michael shook his head, gobbled up what was left in my bowl, and plunked it down on the nightstand next to his own.
“Well, Shorty, I’m tired,” he said, opening his shirt. “You ready to hit the old sack?”
END OF EXCERPT 9, CHAPTER 3. The Archangel of Hamilton Beach