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Chapter Nine
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Chapter Nine

Breaktown

January 22-23rd, 1998

 

            Joni awoke, unsure of where she was. She wasn’t on the floor of her room where she had fallen asleep. She could hear people walking back and forth outside her door, and voices over an intercom. Where the hell was she? And where was her sister? She could barely remember what had happened last night. All she remembered was Allysen pulling alcohol from her bag, and them beginning to drink. It was then that she realized what had happened. She’d had far too much to drink. That still didn’t explain where she was. Her head throbbed madly, and her breath still reeked of alcohol, not to mention her stomach felt like it had been twisted inside out a thousand times over. She slowly opened her eyes to gaze upon the inside of a hospital room. Allysen sat beside her, a huge grin on her face.

            “Wicked night last night,” Allysen said when Joni looked over at her. “You were gone. I’m surprised we didn’t wake your sister up–”

            Joni didn’t want to see Allysen right now. Not after last night. “Go away.” Come to think of it, she didn’t want to see anyone.

            Allysen blinked. “What? After last night, you’re telling me to go away? I’m the only one here, and you’re telling me–”

            Joni looked away. “Yes… I don’t want to see you right now… I don’t want to see anyone right now.”

            Allysen was taken aback. After what had happened the night before, after she had sat up all day to make sure she was okay, Joni didn’t want to see her? She stood up. “Alright, that’s fine. I’ll see you at school on Monday.”

            Joni nodded. “Yeah.” She waited until Allysen was gone, before she curled up into a ball on her side, and let her tears flow down her cheeks. God, she felt so guilty now. She wished she had listened to Isaac, and called him when she first thought about it instead of falling asleep. She knew she should’ve stopped drinking after the first drink, but she didn’t. The alcohol had felt so damn good. She thought about calling Isaac just to hear his voice, just to hear him tell her everything would be okay, but she didn’t have the strength to sit up. She then thought about what would happen when her aunt and uncle found out. The states were so much different than Canada… they had to pay for their hospital visits, every single one of them. The bill would be mailed to her aunt and uncle within a few days, and they would have to pay it, and then do only God knows what to her. She didn’t understand why Kaitlynne didn’t just leave her there on her bedroom floor to wake up when she was ready to. Everything was going downhill so fast, she couldn’t stop it. She didn’t have the strength. If only that damned eighteen-wheeler had have missed her parents’ car, they would’ve celebrated Christmas the way they used to, and they would still be at home in Toronto. None of this wouldn’t have happened. She and Kaitlynne wouldn’t be here with Aunt Lynda and Uncle Jacob, and she wouldn’t have had that drinking binge, to land herself in St. John Medical Centre somewhere in the vacant city known as Tulsa, Oklahoma.

            “Oh, it looks like somebody finally chose to wake up.” a cheery female voice came from behind her. She rolled onto her back to see a fairly large coloured nurse in pink scrubs which seemed to match her personality.

            “Can I go home?” Joni asked. She hated hospitals.

            The nurse shook her head cheerfully. “Oh, no. Not right now. We’re going to have to keep you until at least tomorrow to make sure all the alcohol you drank didn’t do any damage.”

            “But please, I feel fine,” Joni insisted. She was lying, but she really wanted to go home to lie down in her own bed. Not to mention clean up her room before her aunt and uncle got home. She just hoped they weren’t home.

            “No, no,” the nurse cooed. “You drank a lot of booze last night… too much for you to handle, and we need to be perfectly sure you are fine before we release you. We also need to call you parents or guardians and inform them that–”

            “No!” Joni exclaimed. “Don’t tell them. Please, I don’t need them to find out…”

            The nurse sighed. “I’m sorry, I can’t do that. Not with the condition you’re in right now.”

            “Oh c’mon.” Joni was about ready to strangle the nurse. If she had the strength. “Whatever happened to the doctor-patient confidentiality thing?”

            “That only works in the case of pregnancy or something along that line,” the nurse explained. “And you’re not pregnant are you?”

            “Oh God no,” Joni answered. She sighed. She was in for it when she got home.

            “Is there a number we can reach your parents at?”

            Joni shook her head. “My aunt and uncle didn’t leave a number where they could be reached… they’re in Oklahoma City right now.”

            “What about a friend of the family? Somebody close by?” the nurse asked.

            “There’s only the Hanson family, but they probably already know I’m here…”

            The nurse nodded, and after a moment of awkward silence, the nurse left the room. Joni cursed under her breath. Why did she have to be so careless last night? Why didn’t she just not drink the alcohol? Why did she have to let Allysen influence her that way? She knew she had scared Kaitlynne half to death that morning. She felt so stupid.

            She ended up spending the night at St. John Medical Centre, much to her chagrin. She didn’t sleep at all; the intercom and constant movement outside her door had kept her awake, and the fact she was in strange place she wished not to be in. All night, she worried about Kaitlynne, and how she was. She wondered if Kaitlynne had managed to get any sleep, or if she stayed up all night worrying. She was supposed to be the one doing the worrying, not Kaitlynne. This wasn’t fair to Kaitlynne. If only she had said no, everything would be fine. If only their parents hadn’t have died, none of this would have happened.

            That cheerful nurse came in at precisely 8:30am; right on the dot, all smiles. Joni wanted to tell the nurse where she could stick those smiles, but didn’t.

            “Good morning, how are we today?”

            Joni groaned inwardly, while her stomach rumbled loudly. She was not in the mood for happy-go-lucky nurses to be piping around at all hours of the morning. “Tired, lonely, hungry, and I want to go home now,” Joni listed. She was not in a good mood. She was over the hangover, and was now more than ready to go home.

            The nurse gave Joni a sympathetic smile.

            “And don’t tell me I can’t go home, okay? I have it up to my ears with everything that has gone on this past month…” She started to rant. “On Christmas Eve, my parents were killed by a damn eighteen-wheeler, which meant my sister and I had to move from our home in Toronto, to live with an aunt and uncle we only saw maybe once a year, to a city we had never been to before, and now I am in this hospital in a part of this city I have never been, and I really want to go home now.”

            The nurse understood how Joni felt, and didn’t say anything to make her feel any worse. “Let me go talk to the doctor.”

            “Yeah, you do that,” Joni said, as the nurse left. She hadn’t meant to be rude at all, but everything had taken its toll on her. She was hungry, alone, and wanted so badly to go home. She also wanted to receive one of those huge hugs from Isaac, and to tell her sister profusely that she was sorry. She could only wait for the medical bills to come in for Aunt Lynda and Uncle Jacob to pay.

            The nurse came back, and gave Joni a nod. “The doctor said everything is all clear; you can leave now.”

            “Thank you,” Joni answered. She paused a moment, then looked up at the nurse. “I’m sorry if I sounded rude a moment ago… It’s just that so much has happened in such a short amount of time and–”

            The nurse smiled. “Don’t worry about it. I understand. I’ll find you some scrubs to wear home. Your clothes are all soiled from the other night.” The nurse pointed to a small black garbage bag sitting by the bedside table. “I hope you have a ride home.”

            “Thank you,” Joni said. “Don’t worry, I can get a ride.”

            The nurse left and returned with some scrubs for Joni to change into. Once she did, she grabbed her clothes and checked out before calling Isaac.

            Isaac was strumming his guitar when the phone rang. He set it aside, and answered it. “Hello?”

            “Isaac? It’s Joni…” The voice came hesitantly on the other end.

            Isaac sat up abruptly. “Joni? Are you okay? I was hoping you’d call. Is everything okay? I was worried… your sister came to get me yesterday, and–”

            “I’m fine Ike,” Joni said. “I ended up spending the night at the hospital. I thought about calling you… I just didn’t. I guess my aunt and uncle aren’t home yet are they?”

            Isaac looked out his bedroom window, and saw no car in the driveway. “No, not yet. But they phoned over here asking for you.”

            “Damnit…’ Joni sighed. “What did you tell them?”

            “I told them you were sleeping… I didn’t know what else to say…”

            “Thank you, Ike… But they’re going to find out sooner or later… they’re going to have to pay the medical bill.”

            “Yeah… Hey, do you want me to come over there?” Isaac asked.

            “I need you to pick me up,” Joni said. “I’ve been released. I’m at St. Johns.”

            “Alright, I’ll be right over.”

            Isaac hurried downstairs, and raced to get his shoes and coat on to get Joni.

            “Where are you going in such a hurry?” Kaitlynne poked her head up above the couch, where she had slept that night.

            “I’m going to pick up your sister, if you want to come,” Isaac answered.

            Kaitlynne shot up, and joined Isaac. They got in the car, and they drove to the hospital to pick up Joni. Joni was waiting outside when they pulled up. Kaitlynne and Isaac both got out of the car as Joni came forward. Kaitlynne gave her sister the tightest hug ever.

            “Are you okay?” Kaitlynne asked. “You scared me to death yesterday… I didn’t know what had happened, but there were so many empty liquor bottles… I didn’t know what to do… So I got the Hansons…God I was so worried… I’m so glad you’re okay.” She burst into tears.

            Joni looked up at Isaac, guilt running through her. “She was,” Isaac said. “She was scared shitless.”

            Joni looked down at Kaitlynne, trying not to cry. “I’m so sorry, Kaity… I feel so guilty for what I did… I thought I was just going to have one drink, but it turned into two and three and four… I didn’t mean to scare you… I just wanted to let go…” She rubbed her sister’s hair gently. “C’mon, let’s get home before Aunt Lynda and Uncle Jacob get there.”

            Kaitlynne nodded, and withdrew from the hug, heading back for the car.

            Isaac drove Joni and Kaitlynne back to his place. Kaitlynne followed Joni inside the house. She had to make sure her sister was okay before anything else. Joni smiled when she realized Kaitlynne was following her. “I’m fine, Kaity,” she said. “I’m okay.”

            “Just promise me one thing, Joni?” Kaitlynne asked.

            “Sure, sweetie.”

            “Never do that again, please? You scared me too badly.”

            Joni gave her sister a hug. “Don’t worry, I won’t.”

            “Promise?”

            “I promise, Kaity. I won’t do it again.”

            Kaitlynne, now satisfied, went to join Taylor and the rest of the family, who were all relieved to see Joni was back home, in the living room.

            Isaac led her into the backyard, after lending her one of his other coats, which was quite big on her, considering the height difference. Once out there, he gave her a long hug. “I missed you.” He could still smell the faint scent of alcohol on her skin and breath. He withdrew a moment later. “Why didn’t you call me?”

            Joni felt bad. “I thought about it, but the alcohol just felt so good… and I was finally able to forget for one night.” Her eyes grew watery. “I was happy, Isaac… just for that one night, I was happy… I wish I could relive it again… just to feel the happiness… I had forgotten what happiness was, until the other night.” She sniffed, and blinked back tears. She hugged herself tightly, but not from the cold. “Tomorrow marks the one month anniversary… it’s only been a month, Isaac… Now, that I’m here, I’m never going to be able to visit their grave on their birthdays, or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day… I’ll never spend another Christmas with them, or have another turkey dinner for no reason at all… They’re buried in the same plot, so they’ll be able to spend the rest of eternity together.” She wiped tears from her eyes. “I’m sorry… I’m going all sappy on you again.”

            Isaac brought her into another hug, and sat her down on the bench on the patio. “It’s okay. You can go as sappy as you want. I’ll listen for as long as you need me to. As long as you keep talking, I’ll keep listening.” He started to withdraw.

            Joni leaned into him so he wouldn’t let go. “Don’t let go.”

            Isaac repositioned himself and held her. “I won’t.”

            She sighed. “I just don’t understand all of this. I don’t understand why everything has had to happen so fast, and all at once. My parents die, we have to move in with an aunt and uncle we hardly see until now, I had to let Allysen make me drink like no tomorrow, and I scared Kaitlynne to death…”

            “You scared me too, Joni, not just Kaity. You scared my parents too. They were the ones who checked on you.”

            Joni looked up at Ike. “What? They did? I thought Kaity did.”

            “Kaity found you, but my parents were the ones who checked on you.”

            “Oh my God, I feel so bad,” Joni cried. “I scared everyone… all because I had a few too many…” Sobs shook her. “Why did my parents have to die?! Why did all of this shit have to happen?! I don’t understand it! It’s not fair… it’s not fucking fair!”

            Isaac quickly brought her closer to him. He hated to see her this way, but he knew he had to in order to protect her. She had nobody to protect her; he might as well be the one. No, he had to be the one. He had to be there for her, no matter what happened to her, no matter what might happen to him. He made a vow to himself to always be there, no matter what. Even if he and his brothers were in the studio, he would always be there to take a phone call, even if it meant delaying the recording session by an hour or two. He had to be there for her. Especially now… with her taking the breakdown, and the potential alcohol addiction which might arise because of the other night and the happiness she felt. He could only hope that she would not associate happiness with being drunk. He had to find another way to make her happy. Maybe he would take her to the winter carnival in a couple of weeks, or surrender himself to a chick flick for one night, or let her do whatever she wanted; anything to make her smile, anything to make her laugh, anything to make her remember what true happiness was.

            He hid a grimace as his back was used as a makeshift punching bag for a short moment. He laid a soft kiss on the top of her head. “Shh, calm down, darling, calm down.”

            Joni looked up at him suddenly. What had he just done? What had he just called her? She was confused. Did he just kiss her head, and call her darling? What brought this on? “What did you call me?” she whispered.

            Isaac smiled. “I called you darling.”

            “Why? And why did you just kiss me?”

            Isaac brushed her hair from her eyes, then wiped her tear-stained cheeks gently with his thumbs. “Because I like you… a lot.”

            Joni blinked. “What? Why? All I ever do is cry… why would you want to waste your time–”

            “Hey, hey, I’m not wasting my time on you Joni.” He looked her right in the eyes, seriously. “Do you know why I held you the other morning on your front steps? Do you know why I held you that night after dinner? Do you know why I went over to see you the night of your… sleepover? Do you know why I told you that you could call me at any time and I would be there when you needed me?”

            Joni shook her head. “Why?”

            “Because I wanted to be,” Isaac answered. “I want to be with you, Joni. I know that you weren’t always like this. I know that underneath all the tears and the grief and despair, there is a wonderful, charming, funny… beautiful girl waiting to come out and show herself. I want to be there when that girl finally comes out to shine. I want to be the one she reveals herself to. I want to be the one to hold you when you need to be held, to tell you everything is going to be okay. I want to be the one you think about before going to bed at night… and I want to be the one to tell you… I love you.”

            Joni blinked. She couldn’t believe what this boy, this young man was saying to her. He wanted to be with her? He loved her? He was right about the other girl living trapped within her broken heart, however… “Do you really think I’m beautiful?”

            “Yes, Joni. You have a beautiful smile that needs to be shown more often.”

            Joni couldn’t help but laugh.

            “Oh, there it is,” Isaac smiled. “Maybe it wasn’t lost after all.”

            Joni’s smile faded as quickly as it had come. “It won’t stay forever though.”

            He rubbed his nose against hers. “That little bit was enough for me. Joni, I really do love you, and I want to be with you. I want to see you for who you really are.”

            The two looked at each other for a long moment, before Isaac took a risk, and leaned in, kissing her gently on the lips. He withdrew a second later. “I’m sorry… I’m going too fast…”

            Joni shook her head. “No… that was nice… I needed it.” A sudden craving for another alcoholic beverage came over her. “But I could also use another stiff drink.”

            “No, you don’t, Joni,” Isaac said. “What you need is something to eat, and a good night’s sleep. Come inside, and I’ll let you invade the kitchen.”

            As much as Joni wanted that drink, something to eat was a much better deal; she was starving. She followed Isaac inside, and found some leftover roast beef, potatoes, and vegetables. She immediately pulled them out of the fridge, and handed them to Isaac. He laughed, and got her meal ready.

            After eating, and spending the rest of the day at the Hansons’, Joni and Kaitlynne headed home, so Joni could clean up her room and wait for their aunt and uncle to get home.

Chapter Ten