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Ruby between the cracks, p.34
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       Ruby Between the Cracks, p.34

           P.D. Workman
When he woke up to sun starting to filter into the room through the closed blinds, Justin realized he must have fallen back asleep again while waiting to hear June go back to bed. He stretched and scratched his chin. Justin reached over to his dresser and pulled out a dark hoodie and a pair of socks. He got up and added a gold necklace to the outfit and dragged a comb through his hair. A handful of mousse wet it down and would hopefully keep it in place. Justin paused for a moment to inspect the healing cut above his lip from a fight with Banks, one of the older boys, a fifth-grader. He was pretty sure it would leave a scar.

  Justin went to find June.

  Chloe’s door was shut. Justin didn’t bother to knock, he just opened the door and went in. The thirteen-year-old was standing in front of the mirror, primping her shaggy blond hair, and turned to Justin with a scowl, pulling the fallen strap of her pink halter-top back into place. The air was thick with the fumes from her hairspray. Justin coughed.

  “You can’t just come in here,” Chloe growled. “This is my room, not yours.”

  “It’s June’s room.”

  “It’s my room too. You have to knock and get permission. Girls need privacy.”

  Justin shrugged and turned around to June’s bed. June eyes were open just a slit, looking at him. She was dressed in a pink nightgown edged with lace that he couldn’t remember her ever wearing before. Something their mother must have picked out. June usually liked t-shirts or sweats. June’s skin was white, not rosy like usual. Justin sat on the bed and touched her dark, tangled hair.

  “Are you okay, June?”

  June grunted something.

  “Did you puke?” he asked.

  June held her hand to her head and rubbed it.

  “Don’t remember.” She burped, and lurched toward him, her other hand on her stomach. “But I think…”

  Justin moved quickly out of her way. June staggered out of the bed and stumbled out the door. Justin followed behind her at a distance. June made it safely to the bathroom before throwing up. Justin stayed in the hallway, waiting for her to finish. He suddenly wasn’t feeling too hungry for breakfast himself. June rested her head on the edge of the toilet.

  “You okay?” Justin questioned after a few minutes.

  “Uggh. No.”

  “You must have thrown up last night too.”

  She turned her head and looked at him. “I don’t remember,” she repeated.

  “Are you done?”

  June held her stomach, shaking her head.

  “Want me to call Mom?”

  “What for?”

  Justin shrugged. Chloe came out into the hallway. She had put on a faded denim jacket over her outfit. One side of her bluejeans sagged down below her hip.

  “Are you going to school?” Chloe asked June.

  Justin looked at her in astonishment. “Are you kidding?” he demanded. “She’s too sick to go to school!”

  “Sometimes after you throw up, you feel okay,” Chloe pointed out, hands on hips.

  “She’s too sick.”

  “Let June answer.”

  Justin scowled at her.

  “I’m too sick,” June moaned in agreement.

  Chloe turned her attention to Justin. “Well, you’d better get ready for school then. You don’t want to be late.” She glanced at the time on her phone and slid it away.

  Justin didn’t bother to point out that he already was dressed for school. “I’m staying home to look after June.”

  Chloe looked in at June, frowning. “She’s not a baby. She can stay home by herself. You have to go to school.”

  Justin shook his head. “You can’t tell me what to do.”

  “I’m in charge when Mom and Dad aren’t home.”

  “You can’t make me,” Justin maintained.

  They were interrupted by June throwing up again. They both looked at her. Chloe wrinkled her nose and went into the kitchen to make coffee. Justin stuck around.

  “I’m staying home with you,” he assured June.

  June just moaned.

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