"What's your friend's name?" the nurse asked us for the fourth time. I sighed, breathing in the smell of pills and old patients with bad diseases. At the hospital. Yeah, Carmello did beat up Big Rich, but he got his ass sore in the process. I was with Mai, ew, Vince, double ew, and Luz. Everything was really her fault. She shouldn't have been with that jerk in the first place once he laid his hand on her. Or, maybe I was just being a dick; I don't know. We all had a serious problem here and we needed to point a finger at someone.

"Carmello Lloyd White." Mai replied a second later. This was bad; she knew Carmello's middle name and they've only been together for two and a half weeks! I didn't know Carmello had a middle name until he started signing his name in his book with a little 'l.' in between his first and last name. And he only did that once, and stopped because I kept asking him what it stood for.

"Okay." The nurse looked at her clipboard. She was only about a few years older than us, with blonde hair and blue eyes. I was staring, and she probably noticed. I never saw that in the Bronx. She scribbled something on her board. "Oh, here he is. Carmello Lloyd White, born on December 16th, 1995." I was weird hearing her say that. But at least she reminded me about his birth date, which I was always forgetting.

She led us past the patients, and occasionally stopped by some people with pretty sick illnesses. Like, there was this one dude that was younger than me, and he had a hump like Quasimodo, ya know that ugly guy from that movie Hunchback of Notre Dame. And then there was this other guy that literally couldn't breath through his nose. He had to breathe through his mouth for almost his entire life. Damn.

We finally got to his room, with the numbers '696' shimmering on the top of the banner, we were greeted with a much bruised looking boy with braids. That was Carmello, if you didn't know. Mai and Luz kinda had a race, trying to get to him first. Mai was already crying. So Vince and I stared in silence. My guess was that Carmen came by earlier or something, since we didn't come with her. Whatever.

"I'm alright, you two. I'm tough, son. I'm only here because I wanted to show y'all that I can be soft, too." Carmello said cannily. Mai looked really skeptical and Carmello added quickly: "Alright, I beat him up, but he did a number on me, too."

The two girl's face settled back, probably satisfied that his tough guy act was over with. I finally stopped acting like I had a stick up my kisser and made my way over to him. "'Sup, man. I'm finally taller than you." Chuckles. "How are you?" Carmello glanced up from the bed. Lucky bastard. I bet they served him anything in here, even hospital food was better than our school's lunch.

"I'm good; my organs are all in one place. So, yeah…" he drifted off. He was probably thinking of something to say. "Why, Luz?" he finally managed to ask. There was a pause so silent that you could hear a pin drop. "Why'd you go out with him when you realized what he was doing…" Luz glanced at him, probably finding the words. This meeting was turning into a soap opera scene.

"Well, because…he made me happy at first, you know?" she finally said. Oh, boy. There it goes. That was sign number one of a relationship with abuse; the terrible façade. "But when I realized what he was doing, it was too late…" Luz prompted herself and finished the story.

"What are you talking about? It's never too late!" Mai snapped. She seemed to be fed up with Luz's weak spirit. I was too, but I would never call her out on it. "You should've said something a long time ago, instead of putting my man in a hospital bed…" I take that back. She was only mad at her because Carmello didn't look at handsome as he did before, now that he was covered with bruises. "You really don't have any excuses, you know. And what's worse is that—"

"Mai, just leave it." Vince cut in. Inaudible gasps entered the hospital, clambered up the stairwell, and made their presence known in room 696. Vince stepped sauntered forward like an old man and finally reached the group of us, huddled around Carmello like he was a crackling fireplace and we had just been stranded in the ruthless winter winds for hours. He cocked his head and glanced at me.

That was he only sign of forgiveness for all the stuff that he ever did to me, though. After that he elaborated on why Mai should stop attacking Luz. "Luz made a mistake. Everyone does, right? Now that she knows what she did wrong, she'll hopefully never do the same shit over again." He looked at her for a silent agreement. I never knew Vince could be deep. He always seemed shallow, like a shower.

"Fine, fine. Sorry Luz, mmkay?" Mai said in a voice that strongly reminded me of a female dog. She wasn't sorry, but she was just saying that so Vince would get off her case. "Carmello, you've been very talkative." She mentioned sarcastically.

"Well I know there's so much to talk about!" Carmello mimicked. Mai scoffed playfully, and I wondered what would happen if I said something like that to her. She'd probably choke me or make me cry in front of everyone.

"You guys can leave now. I wanna sleep." How rude! He didn't have to tell me twice, though. We all started towards the door, save for Mai.


She read all of our minds. "I'm just gonna stay here for a while. Carmen is gonna wait for me, anyway." Okay.

We all boarded the train and gave our little dashes of speech every once in a while until we got off. It was boring, but it was better than traveling alone.

When I got home I spotted Angela, lip- locking with some boy on the couch. Whoa, whoa! "Wait, hold on. I met your last boyfriend. I threw him out the bus window. When I get my friends on this one—" They pulled away from each other. I realized that this was the same damned fool that I threw out the bus window! "Argh!" I lunged at him, and I saw a mask of fear on his face for three seconds. In a heartbeat, Angela was in front of him, arms out.

"Stop, Evan! I…I…I think I love him!" she proclaimed. I couldn't believe it. The thin boy with squinty eyes face lit up with delight. He squealed so lowly that I strained to hear it. There was a strain, a slow lethargic passage of time through us.
"Wait, what? How could you love…that?" I nearly spat. Angela jumped at the sound of venom in my voice. "You're too young to love anyone! Just stop being difficult and go to your room." I told her. Angela looked hurt; the thin boy remained sitting, face relatively passive.

"Jason means a lot to me. I thought that you would understand. But as usual, you're uncool about it. That's okay, though. Who said I ever liked you, either?" those words stung but I fought them to the floor, and stabbed the words to death. Jason slightly cocked his head forward and nodded in slow motion as if I was retarded. I could feel my anger boiled and spill out of my head in one quick session.

"Shut up. I don't like you, either. And I HATE JASON! Good thing Dad's not here, huh? How did you recover from your fall anyway, Jason? If you value your life, then you'll be gone by the time I open my eyes and finish counting to ten." Jason eyes grew wide, I noted in my mind happily. I started my countdown and Angela cut me off. I shot death glare her way.

"Stop it! I'll tell the police if you harm him! ...Just leave us alone, Evan. Can't you just walk from one fight?" She had a point, but I kept going.

"No! How're you gonna choose him over your family?" But I also had a point as well. Jason sat back down as we traded verbal gun shots, looking serene.

"This isn't about that, Evan." She argued.

"Then what is it about?" I licked my lips, feeling that I was getting onto something. "Tell me what the hell this is all about, then."

"If you were a good brother, you'd accept my decisions!" Why was she still putting up a fight, insisting on defending this average- looking, snobby boy? I didn't get it. Something in the back of my mind started rolling. Suddenly, my feet were moving by themselves, past my twelve year old sister and her little punk for a boyfriend.

My feet traveled up the stairs and into my room. I glanced at the clock. Five-oh-four, it read. We had been arguing for almost five minutes. I should be upset, pissed even. Upset that Angela 'loved' Jason, and pissed that she was defending him. My eyes didn't take in what was shown on the television, which were the usual sitcoms. Dear God, strike me down now.

Instead, I started to the kitchen again. I past by the bathroom when I smelled something. Something distinct, something no one liked the smell of. Kind of like Vince's scent. And he always had a scent, since he never took a shower. I eased my way into the bathroom, brow furrowed. I spotted something black, square shaped in the cupboard next to the oval- shaped mirror.

I stroked the small black square. It was soft, and something greenish- gray streaked out from the black pouch. Hold on here just one minute. I rushed downstairs again, seething with contempt once I saw that Jason had his arm around Angela. "Angela! What is this?" I held up the black pouch. I could barely believe she would be—

She looked calm, though. "Uh, I dunno." She slurred.

"You better tell me, Angela. Or else I'll make sure that Dad will find you—"

"Evan. Hop off. I said I don't know." Angela said coolly. Jason started laughing and laughing like his girlfriend had transformed into Will Ferrell. I took a deep breath and walked away. The things I had to deal with each and every day!

Morning came. Wake up. Shower. Dress. Eat. And I was off to Einstein High School once more. I saw Carmello on the train, and I was understandably jealous. He perfectly angled face looked as though he never got hurt in his life to begin with. He was out of the hospital in two days, which the nurse said was a surprise. She was probably just hitting on him. And he probably gave her his number. I won't ask, 'cause I know he did.

"My great, little son, yo." Carmello had a new greeting, which was cornier than his last.

"What?" I asked him. Carmello kept grinning, pretending not to notice my hostile mood. Even though I should be happy that he had just gotten out of the hospital, I wasn't. I should give him a reason why I was mad.

"Yo." I said moments later. "You're in a good mood." I told him. We walked past the green bushes that lined up like lieutenant soldiers ready for war at Einstein High's entrance.

"Why shouldn't I be? I'm alive, Evan. Alive!" Carmello had a big smile on his face.

"Yes, Carmello, I realized that you have just masturbated for the first time, but even I wasn't this happy…" I drifted off.

"Shut up, man. Can't you just be happy for me?" he narrowed his eyes as I pushed the school's front door open.

"Well why the hell are you happy? You didn't even tell me that…" some old guy at the school's door nodded at me and smiled, and I felt my inner butt hole squeeze shut with fear.

"Because I beat up a bodybuilder and I lived to tell the tale. Doesn't that mean anything to you, Evan?" Carmello took my shirt in his hands and shook me slightly. I pushed him away and we kept walking.

"I guess. Kinda sounds like you're bragging, but whatever." I confessed lightly. Carmello didn't reply at first. When we started into the cafeteria I realize that we were early. Surprise. She came strutting over to Carmello and kissed him a little too aggressively. I crept away from crime scene and got on line for breakfast.

As you guessed, the cafeteria's food was really bad. They were serving frosted flakes in some white little bowl (with no sugar), some sour strawberries, frozen milk, and bananas with brown stuff on the yellow outer flesh. I hated bananas. In fact, I was allergic to the dreadful fruits. I parked myself next to the usual crew, who was always early. No one talked. No one seemed to acknowledge the whole incident. When Carmello sat down with her, it was as if nothing volatile had ever occurred.

The bell rung and our first period classes started. Oh, boy.