“Miss Saphyre Williams, come to the office, please.”
The entire class looked up to where the voice boomed over the loudspeaker, then they all looked at her.
The girl with blue hair tried to shrink in her chair, until the teacher dismissed her. “Saphyre - take your books and head down.” He knew she wouldn’t be returning.
Saphyre stood and picked up her books. She sauntered toward the door, sending a glare of daggers to Miss Popular in the front row, feigning taking a puff from an imagined cigarette and blew the pretend smoke in Saphyre’s direction.
“What are you doing, Miss Abigail?” questioned the teacher from the front of the room.
“Okay, then. Please pick up reading from the paragraph where we left off.”
Abigail started reading, her voice escorting Saphyre from the room.
When she hit the quiet hallway, Sapphire sighed, knowing what the call was likely for. Abigail and her clique had ratted her out for smoking on school grounds again. This time, she faced suspension. Whatever. She rolled her eyes, but her Grandmother, Saphyre’s caretaker, would be upset. She hated disappointing her Gramma - the one person in this world she counted on to make her feel unconditionally safe. After being abandoned by her Mom at only six years old, Gramma took her in with open arms. Her hugs were the best! Almost as good as her chocolate chip cookies. Saphyre smiled to herself, reveling in the thought squishy hugs and at the aroma oven baked cookies.
Saphyre swung the office door open, a confused look quickly overtaking her face at the somber, almost sympathetic looks with which the office staff greeted her. Miss Paulson gestured to the office door. “You can go in, Saphyre. Mr. Greenly is waiting for you.”
Saphyre nodded and pushed open the principals door. She was taken-aback when she saw her older half-brother sitting there. She quietly took a seat in front of the desk, next to Max and across from the principal.
“I’m afraid we have bad news, Miss Williams. Your brother is here to help.”
“Help?” extremely confused and annoyed now, she stammered out, “What? What is going on?” She hadn’t seen Max in months. They weren’t close.
“Saphyre, I’m so sorry to have to tell you this. Your grandmother has passed away. Max is here to care for you at this time.”
“What?! No fuckin’ way! I just saw her this morning! She was fine. Why are you saying this? And why is Max here?” Her eyes wide with shock and disbelief, Saphyre pushed her chair back, with a hard screech on the floor, and ran from the room. She ran out of the office, through the front doors of the school and didn’t stop until she got home.
She let herself into the small house. “Gramma?” She called, “Gramma, you here?”
Only silence returned. The house was empty. She heard a car pull into the driveway. The ignition shut off. Sapphire turned to see Max walking through the open door. Sapphire ran down the hall, to her bedroom. She threw herself onto the bed and sobbed. The reality sof the surreal situation sunk in. She knew Gramma was sick, just never guessed how sick. Eventually, she emerged from the bedroom. She needed a cigarette and a bit of space to think.
She walked down the hallway jarred by the sight of Max seated on the couch. Saphyre strode right past him with barely a glance. She wanted to go have a smoke outside, in peace. She swung open the now closed door. As she stepped outside, she lit her cig and leaned against the wall, drawing in the smoke, she felt it calming her frayed nerves as she blew it back out.
“Hey, you know smoking is bad for you.”
She rolled her head to the side, while resting back against the wall, greeting Max with a hooded gaze.
“Well, so, as your brother …”
Saphyre cut him off “HALF-brother,” she spit out, turning her head back to take another deep drag.
“Okay - Half-brother. As your half-brother we share the same grandma.”
“Yeah, well, you weren’t around much.”
“I know. Now I’m sober, and have no contact with Pop.”
Saphyre rolled her head to look at him again, blowing the stream of cigarette smoke in his direction. “Good for you.,” she mocked. “Why are you here?”
“I’m here because Grandma called me from the hospital, asking if I would consider taking care of you upon her passing.”
She blew out her last breath of smoke, punching the cig under her chunky boot. “I don’t want your help.” She went back inside, slamming the door behind her, headed back to the bedroom and collapsed face down on the bed, wracked again by sobs.
Later that evening, she got her tears under control. She was hungry and thirsty, so decided to venture to the kitchen.
Max was sitting in a chair in the living room, watching TV with the volume off and the captions on.
Surprised to see him, Saphyre gasped. “What are you still doing here?”
“Oh, Hi, Saphyre. I told you, I made a promise to Grandma to take care of you.”
“I told you to go!” Her stomach growled. “I don’t need you, or anyone, to take care of me!”
“There’s sandwich fixings’ in the fridge.”
She clenched her fists, growled quietly and stomped to the kitchen. Saphyre pulled open the door to the refrigerator to look for dinner. Nothing to eat except sandwiches. Damn it! She was starving!
She made herself a sandwich, taking it and a glass of water to the small table, where she sat to eat.
Max joined her. She sighed and rolled her eyes when he pulled out the chair across the table.
Looking intently, he spoke.
“Here’s how it’s going to work, Saphyre. You only have a couple of weeks of school left for the year. I was able to take some time from work to spend with you here for the rest of the school year, then you will move to my place to begin high school there. And Grandma’s services are on Friday.” He left the table.
Saphyre finished her sandwich, took a good swallow of water, then went back to her room.
In the morning, she padded from her room to use the bathroom before getting ready for school, like any other day, until she remembered how drastically yesterday changed today. She rushed out to the living room to see if Max sas still there. He wasn’t. She started to let out a sigh of relief, when she realized she could smell bacon. She turned to the kitchen and there he was, standing at the stove.
“I made some breakfast, “ he said with a smile, “but I didn’t know what you liked, so I made breakfast burritos.” As much as she didn’t want to admit it, or encourage him in anyway, they did smell wonderful and she was again starving.
“You know, you don’t have to go to school today. I mean, the school said it’s okay if you need to stay home for a day or two.”
“It’s okay. I’m good. I am going to school,” Saphyre returned in a jaded voice.
“Suit yourself. Whatever you think is best. Just putting’ it out there. I’ll give you a ride. You can eat your breakfast on the way.”
“I’m fine. I’ll walk, like usual.”
“Okay. Looks like rain, though. You might want to take an umbrella.”
“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”
Max shrugged and turned back to the stove.
Saphyre went to get ready for school. She grabbed a burrito on the way out the door. Thank God Max was somewhere else. She hurried on her way. When she got about a block into her five block walk, the sky let loose. She pulled up her hoody and started to jog. About a minute later, a car pulled up and the passenger door swung open.
“Get in!” She heard. She hesitated for just a moment before hopping into the vehicle, slamming the door shut behind her. She gave Max of glance of appreciation, mixed with loathing, taking the remains of her burrito from her pocket to finish on the way. He had even wrapped it in foil for her walk to keep it warm and not messy to eat. It also held up after being stashed in the front pocket of her hoodie.
“Alright. To school?” Asked Max.
“Yes. To school,” Saphyre replied somberly.
I turned out to be a very bad day for Saphyre at school. It seemed the level of harassment tossed her way was higher than usual. She even tripped, dropped her books and nearly burst into tears. She escaped to the bathroom, where she met Abigail ready to pounce. Instantly, Saphyre turned and left the bathroom to sneak outside for a smoke. She just needed a minute to collect herself.
Just as she inhaled her first drag, she heard Abigail’s snide voice questioning her.
“I knew you were coming out here to smoke. Gross!” She waved her hand in front of her crinkled up nose. She blew a stream of smoke in the girl’s direction. “What do you want?” Saphyre glared at the intruder.
“Nothing. Just wondering why the principal called you from class, and why you’re acting so weird today.” She grimaced again when Saphyre blew out another stream of smoke in her direction.
“None of your business. Why do you care?” Saphyre kept her hooded glare on Abigail, while she flicked the ash from her cigarette.
“I don’t really,” Abigail’s blue eyes focused on the ground as she continued. “I just saw that cool guy drop you off this morning. Who is he? Your boyfriend?” She taunted, looking up at Saphyre again to gauge her reaction.
“Hardly.” Saphyre rolled her eyes, but said no more. Just finished her last drag, squashed the butt beneath her boot and proceeded back inside. Abigail followed, but went her own way. Thank God, Saphyre thought to herself, I cannot take anymore of this day, and definitely not of that snob. She had one more class to get through, and then she could walk home, where she supposed Max would be waiting. Ugh.
As she left the school, walking at a slow pace, toward home, she lit another cigarette and contemplated just continuing on, right out of town
But she had no money, and she WAS hungry. She turned for home. She stomped out the end of her cig before the last block. She opened the door to find Max sitting on the sofa again, watching TV, this time with volume.
“There’s a snack on the counter for you, and I thought we’d order pizza later.”
Saphyre’s eyes perked up inspite of herself. Ordering pizza was a rare treat, and she loved pizza.
Remembering to lower her eyelids again, she answered Max as she headed to the kitchen. “Okay. Whatever.”
“Hey, there’s a movie on later that I thought you might like. Wanna watch it?”
“What is it?” She asked on her way from the room, trying to sound quite uninterested.
He told her, it was one she had been wanting to see
“Yeah, okay, maybe,” she returned, noncommittally. When the movie came on, Saphyre took a seat in the chair opposite where he sat on the couch and he made popcorn - a bowl for her and a bowl for himself.
So it went on like this until the end of the school year, a tense, but tolerable unspoken treaty seemed to have formed between them. They attended their Grandmother’s remembrance service - there were only a few attendees - her son was not among them.
During summer break, Saphyre packed up her things and moved with Max to his apartment in a large town about an hour away. It was actually kind of nice. There was much more to do than in the small she grew up in.
“Hey, Saphyre! Wanna go to a movie tonight?”
“Sure. Okay.” I had never been to a movie theater before.
“It’s a special night. Your first whole day living here. Let’s go out to eat first. What do you feel like?”
“I don’t know. There’s so much. You pick.”
Saphyre actually started to enjoy herself there. There was so much to do! Sh ewent to the mall, to the park, to the small zoo She found the library, and even a couple of kids her age. Max and she even began getting along in a friendly manner. Or, more like, he’d always been friendly, Saphyre became less bitchy.
It would soon be fall and time to start back to school; high school in a new place with all new people she didn’t know.
Saphyre began to feel a little anxious, so she took a cig to smoke outside. Max followed her out and started to speak when she pulled in the first drag.
“I know you’re feeling a bit nervous about the new school.”
“What makes you think that?” Saphyre sniped back as she tapped the ashes to the ground.
He looked at her, eyebrows raised, and continued.
“You know, we can re-invent ourselves at anytime. Be who we want to be.”
With that and a smile, he left me to finish my cigarette and contemplate.
Saphyre took her last drag, blew out a cloud of smoke and squashed the butt beneath the heel of her boot. She would start high school on Monday as a non-smoker.