Charlotte slowed down upon seeing Jack sitting on the front porch. Hannah, on the other hand, doubled her pace, the question in her eyes as they went from where the car was usually parked to Jack’s face.
“Jack? What happened?”
He looked up from where he’d been staring down the driveway, met his sister’s gaze.
“Mom had to take Beth in to town. To the hospital.”
“The hospital?” Hannah’s eyes widened.
“What, did she lose an arm or a leg? That’s about the only thing Mom’s not equipped to handle,” Charlotte said, making her way up to the porch.
“Nothing that bad,” Jack said with a sigh. “It was….” He swallowed. “You know. A girl thing.”
Hannah relaxed a bit. “Did they say—”
Jack just looked at her.
“Right. Ignorance is bliss,” she said.
“Mom called a little while ago. They got in, they’re doing some tests, it could take a while.”
“Bad timing,” Charlotte said. “What with Turkey day tomorrow and all. Hope she doesn’t blow anything up while they’re there.”
“She wasn’t herself at all today,” Jack said. “She hardly said anything. Even in history. She never shuts up in history class. And she sat out in PE. We got creamed without her.”
“Hang in there, Jack. Don’t sit out here too much longer. It’s going to be dark soon and it’ll be getting even colder.”
His sisters went inside.
Jack sat, staring down the drive until the sun sank beneath the trees.
He wondered if it was Hannah or Charlotte who’d left the tea kettle on for him when he finally went inside.
* * * * *
Jack’s father didn’t say much of anything when he came home. A glance across the living room pretty much settled any questions he might have had.
“Did she say when they’d be home” he asked Jack, as they sat down to dinner.
“No. Just that they were running tests.”
The phone rang, and Jack’s dad got up to answer it. Jack and his sisters leaned towards the kitchen doorway to listen.
“Didn’t get much from Jack,” his father was saying. “He’s got that hang-dog worried-sick look. Yeah, that one.”
There was a pause. “All right. I’ll tell him. That’s good news. Hmm. There weren’t any… complications like last time? Okay. All right. We’ll see you when you get home.”
Jack’s father hung up the phone, sat back down, had a few more bites.
“Well?” Charlotte asked.
“Beth isn’t going to go away again, is she?” Ellie asked in a small voice.
“She’s fine. There were some abnormalities in her blood work, but nothing that can’t be fixed with some extra vitamins and a prescription that they’re waiting to get filled. As soon as they get that, they’ll be home. And nothing blew up while she was there.”
Jack breathed a sigh of relief.
* * * * *
They got home about an hour later. Jack’s father had kept their plates warm in the oven. His mother didn’t let Beth leave the table until she’d eaten at least half of her portion.
Then the lineup of pills came out of the bags they’d brought home. Three different vitamins. Iron supplements. Two different colored pills from orange prescription bottles.
“That’s almost a meal in itself,” Charlotte said.
Beth did not look too happy to be taking them, but didn’t appear to have the energy to put up much of a struggle.
Jack took her plate, and followed his mother into the kitchen.
“So?” he asked, as he rinsed the plates in the sink.
“Hmm?” his mother said, as she rummaged through the refrigerator.
“Dad said that they found weird stuff in her blood.”
“‘Anomalies,’” his mother said.
“Is that good or bad”
“They didn’t quite know what to make of the tests to begin with. Her cycle —”
Jack held up a hand. “Mom, please, no details. This is one of those things boys my age shouldn’t have to know about.”
His mother laughed. “Well, the pills will hopefully get everything back on track. And the vitamins and iron will help with the other symptoms.”
“So they’ll make her better?”
“Yes, Jack. The doctors had to run the tests twice. They’ve never seen anything like it. But we all agreed that Beth seeing the doctors when she did was the best course of action. This could have gotten out of hand and become something very bad very quickly.”
Jack finished drying the last dish.
“All she wants is to be normal,” Jack said.
“Well, hopefully she’ll be good as new tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep. You’ll want to turn in early, too. Granna is still coming tomorrow for Thanksgiving dinner.”
Jack’s stomach did a flip. Just when things were starting to look up again.