Wren gently lifted his hand, turning it this way and that.
"I don't think you're going to lose your thumb." She glanced at him. "That was a joke. But you are going to need stitches."
Charlie had expected that. "Will it cost a lot?"
"Not if your dad" She broke off, and Charlie could see the wheels turning in her head: how he'd called Chris "Chris," how he'd referred to his "birth mom." "Is the man who brought you in your dad?"
"Foster dad," Charlie said evenly.
"He doesn't have insurance?"
Charlie hesitated. "He makes cabinets. He owns his own shop. He has a workers' comp plan, but the insurance people aren't fans of power tools."
"Because in an accident, the power tools always win," ?Wren said. "And accident reports make the premium go up. Got it."
Actually, the problem was the high co-pays, but close enough. Charlie was surprised that she understood, but then he thought of the overcrowded emergency room and the cockroach on the floor.
Wren stood. "Stay here, okay?"
He tensed, because maybe he'd guessed wrong and she didn't understand. Maybe there were rules she knew about that he didn't. "What for?"
"So that I can . . . so I . . ." She looked at him. "Nothing bad's going to happen. But don't leave, because you do need stitches, or your thumb won't heal right. And you need that thumb, I assume? To keep making furniture or cabinets or whatever?"
He gave a terse nod.
She took the top sheet of paper out of the clipboard and folded it in half, then in half again. She put the clipboard on her seat. "Do you promise you'll stay?"
"Do you mean it?" she pressed.
He replied in his lowest, most serious voice: "I don't make promises I don't mean."
Twin spots of color rose on her cheeks, and, as was so often the case, Charlie had no idea what wrong or unusual thing he'd said this time.
She pulled herself together. "Um, good. Just stay hereI'll be right back."
She walked quickly toward what appeared to be a staff break room. When she returned, she carried a battered first aid kit. The first thing she did was very carefully clean his wound, and he winced at the sting of the antiseptic.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" she cried.
"No, please," Charlie said, chagrined that he'd made her doubt herself.
"Are you sure?"
She bit her lip.
"I'm sure," he repeated. "And thank you. Really."
Wren proceeded to stitch up Charlie's thumb herself. She cradled his hand in her lap and smoothed on a numbing cream first, and her touch was so gentle that Charlie knew he would gladly suffer a dozen injuriesa thousandin exchange for this: the feel of her fingers on his, the tug of the thread, the slight pinch of the needle, the intoxicating scent of her as she leaned in close.
"Katya taught me," she told him. She pressed her knees together as she concentrated. When she shifted, the hem of her skirt rode up, revealing a finger's width of her skin. He wanted very much to look down her shirt, too, but he told himself not to. He almost succeeded.
"I think I know Katya," he said. "Russian? Wants to be a pediatrician?"
She glanced at him, baffled. "Yeah, that's her. But how do you know her?"
"I've met a lot of a nurses, that's all."
Now her expression was doubly baffled, and he felt like a fool. I've met a lot of nurses, as if he were bragging, as if he were some sort of player.
Speak, he told himself. Explain. Now.
"I've been here a lot, that's all. The pediatrics ward. That's how I know Katya."
"Why were you in pediatrics a lot?"
God, why had he brought this up? The last thing Charlie wanted was for Wren to be concerned about him. To see him as a charity case, or a charity case by proxy.
Excerpted from The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle. Copyright © 2013 by Lauren Myracle. Excerpted by permission of Amulet Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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