speculation that it’s linked to certain autoimmune diseases, which seems
possible considering her body aches—I’d like her to see an endocrinolo-
gist and possibly a rheumatologist about that. She should also see a pain
specialist to keep her aches under control. While the excess sleep alone
is not necessarily a health problem per se, it does impact other bodily
functions and of course her quality of life—her ability to go to school
and get a job, get regular exercise, maintain relationships. Vitamin B
injections may help. There’s a study in Germany she may be qualified to
Shar waved away the tissue he extended and leaned her elbows on his
desk, rubbing her temples. “Will it get worse?”
He hesitated. “It may, or it may not. There’s no way to know for sure.”
He smiled hopefully. “But let’s think positive. That girl’s a tough cookie.”
Shar sat back and narrowed her eyes. “Huh” was all she could say.
She shook her head as she stood and gathered her purse and keys.
She’d heard “sweet,” she’d heard “good-natured,” she’d heard “
perceptive” and “sensitive” and “kind,” but she’d never heard her girl called
tough. She thought back on the last year—all the doctor visits and the
misguided diagnoses and the lack of answers, the loss of time to be a kid,
to make her stupid football posters and her As in math. She thought of
the things the girl had had to speak about with a male doctor more than
twice her age and how steady her little hand had been as she’d held that
meticulous list. All at age fifteen. All on her own.
On the walk back to the waiting room, Shar thought about being a
tough cookie and what it meant in this situation. What did it matter if
you could take abuse, if you could slog through pain and illness when
they were whittling you down to a nub, when they might never go away?
She had always meant the usual stuff when she talked about cowboying
up—sticking with a sport or a hard class, putting up with your crappy
job, not whining over colds and sprained ankles, tolerating your frustrating family.
At this rate, Jemma might not ever have a frustrating family of her
own. Maybe not even a crappy job. Maybe she would never get to leave
home. Surely this had crossed her mind. Surely she was terrified. And
where had her mother been?
Shar felt dizzy. The walls quaked as she asked someone for water.
She dropped to one knee, her vision shrinking again like yesterday. This
time, she gave in to it and lowered her body to the floor, into blackness.