The very best day of my life, I threw up
four times and had a fever of 103 degrees. I was pretty
sure I was going to die, and sometimes by the look on
my moms face every time she took my temperature,
I think she was pretty sure, too. It was all because of
Random Smith, a boy in school who never had any
lunch. Id given him a bite of my sandwich and all of my
crackers, he looked so hungry. Growing up, my mom
wasnt the kind of mom who said never drink from the
same cup as someone else. That stuff didnt occur to
her. So Id given him a sip of my milk, too.
But in addition to being hungry all the time, Random was also usually sick. People never knew what he had, so they always just said he had some random thing which they all thought was hilarious but I just thought was mean.
That day at home, my mom spent every minute with me. My older sister and brother were at school, and my dad was working at my parents restaurant. I was eight and had never been home alone with just my mom before, at least not all day and definitely not with her full attention. The house was so quiet, except for us two. My mom got into bed with me and read Charlottes Web. It took all day, and at the end, we both cried and shared a tissue.
When we finished sniffling, my mom adjusted herself in the bed so she could look at me. Fern, she said softly. Do you know why I named you Fern?
I nodded, looking at the drawing of the girl on the cover of the book.
Why? she asked.
Because Fern is one of your favorite characters?
And why is that?
Because Fern cares, she said. From the moment you were born, I could tell you had a special soul. I knew youd be a good friend. A hero.
I looked at my chest and tried to feel my soul buried in there, deep in my heart.
Its true, my mom said. Not everyone would share a sandwich with Random Smith.
I smiled, feeling my soul stir a little.
My mom took my hand and kissed it. Im proud of you, honey, she said. I know youre miserable now, but you made a little boy feel like he matters. And I hope you think it was worth all this.
I nodded slowly, thinking about Random and his dirty face and stinky unwashed hair. I wondered if he was home sick, too, and if he had a mom next to him on his bed, reading to him all day and telling him he was special. But then I started to feel like I was going to throw up again. So I turned over on my side and my mother rubbed my back in slow, tiny circles, humming a lullaby I barely remembered, with fingers on my back I hardly knew. She was always so busy cooking and cleaning and working at the restaurant and basically just taking care of everything else.
I closed my eyes and tried to remember that feeling, because somehow, even then, I had a hunch that I might not feel it again.
Two days later, my mom got Randoms bug. But instead of getting better, she kept throwing up. Every morning she was sick, sick, sick. And then finally, after what felt like weeks and weeks, she and my dad sat us all down and told us the news. My mom was going to have a baby.
Now Charlie sits in the back of my moms station wagon between Holden and me. Hes three years old and thinks no ones looking when he picks his nose, which is way too often. My mom and sister are in the front, arguing about how many hours my sister has to work at the restaurant to help contribute to the family. Since Sara couldnt get into any good colleges, shes doing a gap year by staying at home and working at my parents restaurant. All her friends went off to college, so on top of everything else, shes lonely and grumpy and not much fun to be around.
Excerpted from See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles. Copyright © 2012 by Jo Knowles. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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