The cab costs more than I want it to, but I do manage to part with those grey-green bills that I never knew I loved until just now. I don’t bother to explain my conundrum; he picked me up at Cindi’s. I turn away from escape and toward the trappings of my new flock of unbirds.
Standing in the atrium of a world-class hospital, I wonder whether these volunteers would speak to me with such warmth and human indulgence if I hadn’t showered first. I see questions everywhere, especially in places I never would have seen them before. Before Sad Boy, before Evelyn. She’s practiced reverse alchemy, taking any Ponyboy gold I ever was and turning me to ash, sulfuric destruction.
The elevator rises slowly. I hope…Well, I don’t know what I hope. The street’s no place to raise a baby. But the baby is the whole reason June-Bug’s on the street. If she loses it, then what? Would it ruin her?
Stepping out as the doors open, I nearly run into Stipple. He stares at me with the hard look of someone judging the worth of an artifact.
“That way. End of the hall.” That’s all he says. I decide not to worry about it just now.
The sounds of laughter come from the last door before a ceiling-to-floor window. I take it as a good sign and quickly try to take in every face as I turn into the room with a knock.
“Noname!” three voices cheer. Cindi, who was sitting on the end of the hospital bed, jumps up and ushers me out of the room as the others all speak at once.
Cindi says nothing but pulls my wrist, and the rest of me, toward the stairwell. I ask what’s going on, but she ignores me. Once the stairwell door shuts behind us, she looks over the railing and then up the next flight. We appear to be alone.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” Her voice shakes very slightly. I can’t tell her mood.
“That girl in there,” Cindi looks up and down the flights again, “you don’t know who she is?”
“Well,” I begin slowly, angling for time, “I know she’s June-Bug and she’s been living in an abandoned warehouse and she’s pregnant and her mother wanted her to give up the baby or let it be raised as her sibling.”
“You have got to be the worst social activist ever,” Cindi says with definite exasperation. “She is the daughter of a certain Senator. Her parents wanted to use her underage pregnancy as a political statement. They wanted to use June-Bug to show voters how ‘of the people’ they are. They – her own parents – turned out a video outing her pregnancy. Well, it blew up. That video was cast everywhere to support and decry the Senator both. June-Bug had never been in the limelight before this. She was way off radar. The video shoved her into a burning spotlight. She couldn’t take it and ran away. To me.”
I think I blink in response. I’m sure I’ve been holding my breath. My head swims and I have no clue how to speak.