She laughed. âYeah, sometimes. I havenât been doing it much, but I have to take quiet when I can get it. My house is always crazy.â
âOh yeah! You have a bunch of brothers and sisters, right?â
âYeah! Do you have any?â
âNope. If you ever get sick of yours, Iâll borrow them.â
âHow old are they?â I asked.
âWellâ¦â She scratched her chin and laughed again. âI should know this. Okay, so Emmanuel is sixteen, and Vera is fourteen, and Iâm eleven. Then Philip is eight, Farrah is five, and Matthew is two.â
âDo you all get along?â
âYeahÂ â¦ we donât have much choice. Farrah has brittle-bone disease, so we all take care of her together. Itâs the mild kind, but still. I think we all feel kinda dumb about fighting when we think about what she has to deal with.â
âWow.â Everything Olivia said made me want to be her friend even more. She really cared about people. And her sisterâit might make me a little selfish, but the first thing I thought was that if Olivia was so kind to her sister, maybe sheâd be kind to me, too, if she knew about my CAV.
But I couldnât bring myself to tell her. The second I considered it, my throat dried up so much that I couldnât say anything . So instead of talking, I smiled and opened up my book and my lunch. I grabbed my string cheeseâcourtesy of Nice Andy for the fifth day in a row (now his mom was buying extra for the middle school cheese-eaters)âand offered her a big chunk.
Olivia smiled and took it. Then she opened her book, too, and for the next twenty minutes we sat on our bench with our books, enjoying a little peace and quiet and cheese.
One of the good parts about being in middle school was that now I was allowed to go out by myself on the weekends as long as my homework was done and I promised to stay close. I could just decide, Hey, I want to go for a walk, and not have to wait around for Mom or Jeg or anyone to agree to go with me.
I didnât know where I was going when I started walking on Saturday morning. All I knew was that I was crunching in the leaves along the way, and the sun was out, and everything seemed perfect even though some things were a mess and I had lots of dumb, itchy words on my body to prove it. But I tried really hard not to let myself think about itâuntil I found myself at the big neighborhood field, right near the bleachers.
I looked around, like How did I get here? I didnât mean to go to the field. I didnât want to be at the field. Iâd rather have been at home, locked in my room with a thousand bottles of the thickest, goopiest, most disgusting anti-itch cream Mom could find than be at the field. Yet there I was. There, my feet had automatically taken me. Traitors.
Last year, Jeg and I had gone to the field all the time because we wanted fresh air, and also because we wanted to spy on Kevin and Liam. Mostly because we wanted to spy on Kevin and Liam.
They were on the soccer team that practiced every Saturday morning. We would pack bags of candy (for energy) and skip down the street, giggling the whole way because we would always say the same thing at the same time and it was hilarious. Everything was hilarious when I was with my best friend, even the stuff that wasnât really all that funny.
When weâd get to the field, weâd run and hide behind the rusty bleachers on the sidelines. If we sat criss-cross-applesauce, we were at the perfect angle where we could see out but people couldnât see in. From that position, we watched practice after practice, commenting the whole time about how cute Kevin looked in his uniform (Jeg) and how nice and focused Liam was (me).
âEveryone over here,â a big voice boomed, snapping me out of my thoughts. People in blue jerseys poured in from all directions. I