But Jemma kept working on her geometry, using that dull pencil her
former self would’ve never tolerated.
They sat in the doctor’s waiting room for two hours as sniffling, coughing people came and went. It was just a physical, Shar reassured Jemma.
“Just to make sure your reflexes haven’t died on us or anything,” she
said, tapping the girl’s knee. Jemma thumbed through an issue of
Marie Claire, looking perfectly healthy, which irritated Shar. All these sick
people, and she was here to complain about her daughter having a hard
time getting out of bed?
“Couldn’t you have brought some homework to do? After everything
Jemma shrugged. “I didn’t realize this was going to take so long.”
Finally, a nurse called them back and took her weight and blood pres-
sure before directing them to an exam room.
Jemma sat on the vinyl table, the paper beneath her crinkling as she
shifted her weight. She looked big sitting up there, and Shar realized the
last time she’d taken her daughter to the doctor had been when she was a
little girl with a case of strep throat. Everything since then—bouts of the
flu, nasty colds, cuts and scrapes and ear infections—Shar had treated
A plastic model of a smoker’s lung sat on the white counter, and posters illustrating the effects of diabetes and heart disease were tacked to
the walls. Concrete conditions that could be diagnosed through tests.
“Maybe the doctor can prescribe later classes,” Jemma said. “No his-
tory until ten am. That’d be great.”
Shar looked at her watch. “This is larceny. I’m going to send this guy
a bill for my time spent sitting here.”
When Dr. Reed finally graced them with his presence, smelling of
garlic and oregano, he rolled around on a stool and dully went through a
list of questions without making eye contact. Shar talked about Jemma’s
lack of appetite and sleep problems, remembering to add that the girl
also complained of feeling achy sometimes. She mentioned the tardies,
the slipping grades, the conference with the teachers.
Finally he looked up at Jemma.
“Do you have trouble getting excited for activities you used to enjoy?”
Jemma shrugged, tapping her heels against the end of the table. Her
eyes shifted nervously to Shar.