shaking her hand and telling her she’d done well, and they got a break
before she had to go back for a sleep study that night. They ate an early
dinner at Pizza Hut, and Shar returned to the hotel room alone, nervously navigating the unfamiliar streets after dropping Jemma back
at the hospital, where she’d watched her walk like a determined little
mouse into the sleep center on her own.
Shar lay on the bed and wished they had picked a hotel nice enough
to have a bar. She wished she had picked a nice hotel for Jemma’s sake,
one where they turned down the sheets and left little chocolates out. She
wished she had picked one that had a big swimming pool or that was
close to a mini-golf place or a shopping mall, and that Jemma would
actually enjoy these things. She thought further back and wished that
she had let Jemma paint her fingernails when she asked to, that she
had watched stupid Disney movies with her on weekend mornings and
signed her up for those damn dance classes, if that was what she wanted.
She went downstairs to get a candy bar from the vending machine.
A large woman left a man in a wheelchair in the lobby and came over to
get some candy herself.
“It’s the little things that matter sometimes,” the woman said, picking
out a Rolo, Snickers, and Kit Kat. “He’s not supposed to have a gram of
sugar, not even a single grape. But if it will bring him a little joy, what’s
the harm? You ask me, that’s what’s keeping him alive.”
“Maybe I should get something to take to my daughter tomorrow,”
Shar said. “She’s spending tonight at the hospital.”
“She’s in good hands,” the woman said, touching Shar’s shoulder.
“Doyle was supposed to have three months left before we started coming
here. That was three years ago.” She looked at the ceiling and made the
sign of the cross.
“My daughter’s not sick like that,” Shar said. “She just—” Shar paused,
looking past the woman at Doyle, weak and doomed in his wheelchair.
Was she sick like that, even if it wasn’t visible? Would they soon be people who were satisfied with her simply still being alive?
“She just has this sleeping problem.” Shar rolled her eyes and tried to
smile reassuringly. “Teenage stuff.”
But when she went to pick Jemma up and found out she was still
asleep, and met with the doctor alone, he began their meeting with a
“I’ve seen this a couple of times before. A person’s need for sleep increases, sometimes dramatically, usually in the teen years. There’s some