“Sit down over there.”
The police officer motions to a chair in the waiting room. “My office is right this way Mr. and Mrs. White.” My parents look like they’ve aged twenty years as they follow him. My mom looks like she’s been crying. My dad looks defeated. I imagine the thought, “What did we do wrong?” is going through his head.
I watch my parents leave and then wait. I’m positive I’ve been waiting for hours, but the clock says only five minutes have passed.
I look up at the florescent lights overhead. Let them scorch my eyeballs. I don’t care anymore.
Life couldn’t get any worse.
Thirty minutes later I’m convinced that the lifetime of waiting is all the punishment I’m going to need.
Just then my parents and the officer walk out of the office.
“Jillian, you committed a crime.” My dad says.
“You are in a lot of trouble,” my dad is saying. I guess he’s been talking. “Officer Marks says that spray painting the side of the elementary school could earn you time in a juvenile detention center.”
My dad’s words blend together, and I feel myself getting angrier. He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know what I’m going through.
Officer Marks interrupts the unending rant that my dad is doing. “Jillian, where this is your first offense, the state is willing to drop the charges if you do some community service.”
“Why?” I ask slightly astounded. When I started spraying the side of the school fluorescent green, I knew there was no turning back. This was my crime. I would take my punishment like the true juvenile delinquent I was becoming.
Officer Marks looks me straight in the eye and what I see surprises me. It’s not anger or annoyance at another kid for pulling some crap. It’s compassion.
“Because I think it’ll be good for you.” He simply says.
“Okay,” I mumble.
“Good. For your community service you’ll have to scrap the paint off the side of the school. Also, for the next four months, every Saturday your parents will drop you off at the police station, and you and I will go to the hospital from nine to five.” He states.
“Why the hospital?” I ask. Is he planning on beating me?
“You’ll find out. I will see you tomorrow, Jillian.” With that Officer Marks stands up and says good bye to us.
This is weird.
I’m riding in an unmarked police car. Officer Marks is making small talk, but I’m not really interested.
We finally get to the hospital, and Officer Marks walks through the hallways like he owns the place. He stops in front of a room and motions to a chair outside the door.
He waits for me to sit down and then starts to talk. “Typically, a child will start to act out when something traumatic happens to them. When I was talking to your parents yesterday, I asked them if anything had happened lately.” He pauses, “They said you were recently diagnosed with a heart disease, and that it’s been very hard on you.”
He waits for me to say something, but it’s not going to happen. Monkeys with crowbars couldn’t get me to open my mouth now.
He nods like he understands. “Go in that room. For the next four months, you’re going to be Jesse’s companion. He was diagnosed with lung cancer. Unless he gets a lung transplant soon, he’s going to die. He needs a friend.”
I walk in to see a little boy about six years old. His head is bald and his eyes are blue. He looks up from his coloring when he sees me.
“Hi! Do you want to help me color?” He says.
“You look angry. And sad.” He says after we color for a few minutes. “Why?”
“Well, I’m sick too. Only it’s my heart.” I reply.
“If your heart is sick then you should take it to God. It will get worse if you don’t.” He says confidently.
“Well, I’m a little angry at God. It feels like He’s punishing me.” I admit.
“God doesn’t make us sick. Germs make us sick.” He says and I can’t help the smile. “It’s bad when we don’t take our hearts to God. That’s the problem. That’s what my dad always says.”
I blink as his words hit my sick, hurting heart.
“That was my crime.” I say softly.
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