Cory shifted in her chair. The fake leather squeaked. “Jess . . .” She didn’t know how to finish. She didn’t know how to start. She chewed on her bottom lip. “Jess,” she began again, “I know you must feel really bad right now, but—”
“Actually, I don’t.” Jess turned back to Cory, her chin lifted high. “Actually, I feel great. I feel like a huge ton of crap has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel light, like I don’t care about anything anymore and I can just sleep all day or get hugely fat or quit school or do whatever it is I feel like doing.” She took a deep breath. “And I don’t feel like doing anything anymore.”
“But after all the work, all the stuff you’ve been through, you can’t just quit!”
Jess let out an explosive laugh. “That’s funny! You telling me not to be a quitter. Huh”—she tapped her bottom lip with an index finger in a mock gesture of deep thought—“guess I’ve finally seen the wisdom in your approach to life.”
Cory slid away from Jess’s physical presence as if her words, like small ice pellets, had been flung in her face. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, Cory, don’t act all hurt and everything.” Jess flipped the covers back and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Her feet, her horribly scarred and calloused dancer’s feet, didn’t touch the floor but hung like bruised fruit at the bottom of her stick legs. “It’s not like you’ve never quit anything before,” she continued. “Oh, except for when you never even try because you’re scared of the consequences. Doing nothing is the same as quitting. Maybe worse.”
Cory sat in silence. Her throat felt tight. The nurses’ voices carried down the hallway. Laughter. Finally, Cory tossed the magazine she held rolled up in her hand back onto the bedside table. The dark ink had bled and stained her palms. She wiped them down the front of her pants.
“Okay.” She slapped her knees and stood up. “Guess I’m outta here. I’ll talk to you later.” She headed to the door and pulled it open but hesitated. Jess sat resolutely silent.
“Bye,” Cory said and left.
Outside Jess’s room, the corridor seemed abnormally bright. She walked slowly past the open doors of other rooms, past the nursing station, toward the exit sign.
Doing nothing is the same as quitting.
Jess’s voice echoed in her head. Cory turned and went back to the desk where several nurses had gathered. A woman with a long gray braid looked up from the computer. Her black nametag was etched in white letters. She had a dimple in her right cheek when she smiled. Every detail seemed burned into Cory’s mind as she opened her mouth to speak.
“I need to talk to someone. It’s about my sister . . .”
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