Music City Madness: Chapter 52

Jonathan parked himself near the back of his algebra class with his notebook open and his focus on anything but the math in front of him. While the teacher droned on about the quadratic equation at the chalk board, his attention span meandered between Abby, who sat two rows ahead, and the dark clouds hovering outside the windows.

He could still hear people screaming when he closed his eyes, followed by haunting images burned into his memory. No matter how hard he tried to forget, he couldn’t shake the unending replay of events or convince himself a tornado would never find him again. He’d witnessed Mother Nature’s fury up close and experienced life and death in a way he could have never imagined. The storm had been a nightmare come true for him, compared to Abby who seemed lost somewhere between content and bored.

When the bell rang, he remained in his seat, confounded by his indecision to attend next period or skip the rest of the day. “Will you walk with me?” he heard Abby ask before he realized she was standing in front of him. He couldn’t remember if the bell rang two seconds, or two minutes, prior. More importantly, he didn’t care.

* * *

Abby waved her hand in front of Jonathan’s face. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Jonathan replied, his demeanor almost catatonic when he got up and slid his algebra textbook off his desk.

“What do you have next period?”

“I’m not going to next period.”

Abby followed him past the cafeteria and down the hall toward the gym exit that opened to the rear parking area. She knew the right thing to do, but she chose the wrong path instead. “Wait up,” she said, limping as she tried to keep stride. “My ankle still hurts.”

She followed Jonathan toward a park pavilion with wooden picnic tables behind the soccer fields along the school property. “I sent you a bunch of texts.”

“I know,” Jonathan acknowledged without looking up from the ground.

“You never replied.”

“I’ve been busy.”

Abby caught up. “I’m sorry about Tomás.”

“Sucks to be him.”

“At least your mom and brother are okay.”

“Adam still thinks Tomás is missing. He thinks the police found the wrong body.”

Abby climbed up on a table and rubbed the side of her ankle. “What do you think?”

“I think Adam is a moron. Tomás is dead. Our mom went to see for herself.”

“Did she tell you what happened?”

“She just said Tomás died in the flood.” Jonathan rubbed his eye, fighting to maintain his composure. “Your dad seems pretty cool.”

“I’ll keep him.”

“My dad’s never around anymore,” Jonathan groused.

“At least you have a brother.”

“It’s not the same.”

“I always wanted a brother.”

Jonathan propped himself on the bench seat beside the table. “I’ll let you have mine if you can get him to stay out of my room.” He scratched his fingernails against the wood. Dark clouds moved eastward above the school. “Did the flood scare you?”

Abby looked up at the same patch of clouds drawing Jonathan’s attention elsewhere. “I thought we were going to die. But God gave us a second chance.”

“Do you believe in God?”

“Usually.”

“What do you mean? You either do or you don’t.”

Abby remained on the table, slightly elevated from Jonathan’s position on the bench beneath her. “If he does exist, why do so many bad things always happen? On the other hand, if he doesn’t exist, how did we survive the flood? I should have drowned. I should have died in the hospital. But I didn’t. I think God saved me for a reason.”

“Or you just got lucky.”

“If I was lucky, I’d have both arms. I think God has a bigger plan for me.”

“When did you get so holy?”

“It’s not a matter of holy or unholy but how you choose to live your life.”

“What if I don’t have a choice?”

“You always have a choice. You’re here aren’t you? Instead of sitting in class where you’re supposed to be.”

“True.”

“How long have you lived in Tennessee?”

Jonathan moved closer to Abby. “My whole life.”

“Your mom is like some kind of famous singer.”

“She used to be.”

“How long has your dad been gone?”

Jonathan glanced at the spider webs in the rafter corners. “A long time.”

Abby spotted her gym class on the basketball courts across from the weed-infested soccer field. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“A lead guitarist in a band.”

“My dad loves music. He’d play guitar all day and night if he could.”

“What about you?” Jonathan inquired.

“A juggler,” Abby said with a straight face. She punched Jonathan’s shoulder and checked her phone when she felt it vibrate. “My dad’s picking me up after school.”

“What about detention?”

“NMP.”

“What?”

“Not my problem.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Life is what you make of it. No one said it had to make sense!”