Prom Night in Purgatory
Author:Amy Harmon

The door banged open again, and this time Fatima wasn’t alone. A bevy of medical people swarmed the room.

 

“OUT!” Fatima roared, pointing at the door. “Jillian! Take that girl back to her room.” Johnny had pulled his IV out of his wrist, causing blood to stream down his raised arm, and he was attempting to pull the bandages from his shoulder. Someone pulled Maggie from Johnny’s side, yanking her hands from the bars that were supporting her. Fatima bodily restrained Johnny as someone injected something into him. His shouting and struggling lessened almost immediately. Jillian Bailey wrapped her arms around Maggie’s shoulders and led her from Johnny’s room. Maggie collapsed onto her bed and sobbed. Jillian Bailey sat beside her, crying quietly with her, until the sun nuzzled its way into her hospital room, slipping golden fingers through the slats in her blinds and reminding her that life continued, whether or not Johnny had lost his.

 

***

 

Maggie begged to see him again, regardless of his feelings for her. His despair and fear made her almost crazed with worry. He was alone, his entire world gone, and Maggie knew acutely what that felt like. Alone without a friend in the world. She would be Johnny’s friend, even if friendship was all he wanted. She pleaded with whomever would listen, beseeching them to allow her access to him. Finally, toward the end of the next day, Jillian Bailey came back to her room and shut the door firmly behind her. She looked dead on her feet.

 

“Maggie,” Jillian Bailey sat on the foot of her bed. “I know you’re asking to see Johnny. I know you have feelings for him, and you’re worried about him. You can’t see him right now, though. He doesn’t remember you, and he doesn’t want to see you.”

 

Maggie nodded, taking the blow in stride. “I won’t ask him for anything or make him uncomfortable. I just want him to know he isn’t alone.”

 

Maggie swallowed the tears in her throat and kept her face composed. She was good at that. Many years of being disappointed and rejected had made her an expert. She’d never been hit or slapped or abused, but she’d been shunned, neglected and ignored. One year she’d been placed with a new foster family right before the holidays. They didn’t want their “family” time at Christmas “interrupted”, and they didn’t want extended family who would be visiting to feel “uncomfortable.” So she had spent the holiday in her room, listening as sounds of revelry and laughter floated up the stairs from the gathering below. It had sounded like fun. They had brought her a plate of food on Christmas Eve but had almost forgotten on Christmas day. She had many stories like that one. Lonely was something she was intimately familiar with, and something she didn’t want Johnny to suffer from, even if she wasn’t his preferred company.

 

Jillian Bailey nodded, and her eyes searched Maggie’s blank face for several seconds. “I don’t understand how any of this happened. But it did. And I promise you I will do everything in my power to help him and to take care of him as long as he needs me to. He won’t be alone.” Her tone was tender as she reached for Maggie’s hand.

 

“I’ll be waiting,” Maggie whispered, and her composure cracked the smallest bit. “Will you tell him? Tell him I will be here whenever he needs me.”

 

Jillian nodded and rose from Maggie’s bed. The next day, Maggie was released from the hospital.

 

 

 

 

 

~3~

 

A Time to Be Born

 

 

 

 

 

Bobby and the Bell Tones were pretty good. They looked slick and professional in their matching light blue sport coats and jaunty black bow ties. The guy at the mic could really sing, and they played all the crowd-pleasers, with enough slow numbers that the boys could hold their girls every other song. Johnny arched his back and tried not to pull at the collar of his too-tight bow tie. His white sports coat was too hot, and he longed for denim and boots. Tonight he was slicked up and pressed into the fancy duds his momma had insisted he wear. He had thought he should make a statement and wear his leather jacket to the Prom, but Momma nixed that idea.

 

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