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The moon was high in the sky and cast a long shadow over Shaotoro’s face. “Why did you give her the night off?” Jerry jabbed his finger in Shaotoro’s face. Shaotoro just stared blankly back. He hesitated in slapping his desk. His displeasure still resonated around the office.
Shaotoro waited a moment. “She’s a teenager,” he said.
“I know that, but she’s also the only way to stop the UDCs from taking over our world.” Jerry walked over to his wall of memories and examined each photo.
“You can sign up for the army at 18 here,” Shaotoro said. “She’s not that old. She shouldn’t be doing this, but she wants to.” He paused. “And, like you said, she is the only one who can do it.”
He turned back toward Shaotoro. “Then why did you give her a break?” he asked more calmly.
“You were a soldier,” Shaotoro said. He pointed to the wall of photos. “You messed around, relaxed, and took breaks all the time. Even while on deployment.”
Jerry looked at a picture of his old army friends. His hair was not so gray, and his skin was much tanner. He sat at the far side of a card table. Two more guys sat on the other side. They were smiling. They were indeed happy and taking a break. “Yes, but we had other people to do our job while we weren’t.”
“I’ll do it then. If I’m training my granddaughter, I might as well see what she is up against.” He stood up, straightened himself up, then said, “Besides, she deserves the same relaxation.”
Kyane rocketed out of the seat. The back knocked against the wall behind her. “What did you say?” she asked.
“I asked what took you so long to get here,” Desmond said. “What are you doing that is more important than seeing an injured friend?”
“I know what you said! I got here as soon as I could. We don’t all have the luxury of doing whatever we want whenever.”
“Ah huh. Sure” Desmond said. His phone rang. He ignored it for the third time.
“I do care!” Kyane said. “More than you’d probably know.”
“What?” Desmond said. He moved from his stoic crossed arms to Jamie’s bedside, inches from Kyane’s face. “What does that mean?
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Jamie said. “She’s here and that’s all that matters.”
“I mean god forbid you give something up for someone else! You haven’t cared about us at all!” Desmond said. “You flaked out on our extra-curricular, you were distant after those things attacked up, and you’re distant now.”
“Just ‘cause I’m busy doesn’t mean I don’t care or don’t want to do something.”
Desmond’s phone rang again. He ignored it and stuffed it back in his pocket. He didn’t respond for a second.
“Who keeps calling?” Jamie asked.
“Huh?” Kyane asked
“I assumed it was Kyane calling you, and you being upset with her, so you refused to answer, but she is here and still the phone has called twice. Who is it?”
“I should be busy too,” Desmond said. “I should be too stuck in my own whatever to be here! But no!” He took out the phone and tossed it onto the bed. “Because of me you’re in this situation.”
“It’s not your fault,” Jamie said
“Also doesn’t answer who is calling.”
Desmond shot her a look. “It’s my coach! It’s practice. I have skipped practice every day since Jamie was attacked! Okay! Happy!? Harry could cover a little, but I gave something up to see him. Not you!”
Kyane kept herself from balling her fists and let the anger go through her. “I am doing personal stuff right now.” Her teeth were tightly gritted. “We all like to process stuff differently.”
Jamie stared at his computer screen. The VIN numbers aligned and turned green, until a number didn’t match. The whole number turned red and buzzed. The process repeated. “You’re trying to one-up each other,” he said.
“What?!” the two said in unison.
Jamie cocked his head. “You both are fighting about coming to see me, but you’re trying to outdo each other on how much you care.”
“I’m not that competitive,” Kyane said. “He’s mister hyper-competitive.” She pointed a thumb to Desmond.
Desmond pivoted his eyebrow. “Ahh, I just like playing, and am good at it.”
“If you like playing, why are you not going to practice?”
“Because I need to be here to see Jamie!”
“I’m fine,” Jamie said.
“He seems fine,” Kyane said.
“I am,” Jamie said.
“It doesn’t mean he doesn’t need someone by his side.”
Jamie picked up Desmond’s phone. He weighed the case in his hand and tapped it against the desk in front of his a few times.
“I wanted to be.”
Jamie moved his hand to the side of the bed and clicked the nurse call button along the side.
“Doesn’t matter what you want, it’s what you do.”
“I can’t tell you what I d-“
Jamie smacked the phone against the table as hard as he could. It came with an echoed thump. “Shut up!”
They both froze and looked at each other and back at Jamie. The silence was followed by a knock at the door, and the nurse walked in. He was a balding man in his late 40s with a nice watch on his left wrist, and some rubber bands on his right. “Hey, don’t want to disturb you. Okay I kind of do because we have been getting a noise complaint, and it’s time for me to check on the patient. Privacy, and quiet would be helpful.”
“Okay,” Desmond said. He took his phone back. A text message signal lit up. He checked it and put it in his pocket.
“Fine,” Kyane said. She straightened up and walked to the door. Desmond followed. “I’ll be out here if you need anything.”
“I’ll be out here if you actually want something.”
Jamie waved. “I’ll be fine.”