Authors: Amber Kizer
A Matter of Days
Speed of Light
Gert Garibaldi’s Rants and Raves: One Butt Cheek at a Time
Seven Kinds of Ordinary Catastrophes
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2014 by Amber Kizer
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Pieces of me / Amber Kizer. — First edition.
Summary: After a car accident leaves her brain-dead, Jessica tries to prevent her parents from donating her organs and tissues, but then follows the lives of four fellow teens who are able to survive because she did not.
ISBN 978-0-385-74116-3 (hc) — ISBN 978-0-375-98429-7 (ebook) —
[1. Donation of organs, tissues, etc.—Fiction. 2. Dead—Fiction. 3. Sick—Fiction. 4. Conduct of life—Fiction.] I. Title.
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
To my first, and bestest, friend
Katie Taylor Ott
While we choreographed dances to “Thriller,”
won tickets at Chuck E. Cheese
got Happy Meals and frozen custard
dressed and re-dressed Cabbage Patch Kids, Care Bears, and built forts in the back staircase of your house on Sylvia Street …
I knew about your open-heart surgeries, saw your scars,
but didn’t understand the big picture until much later …
Katie, this story about kids who spend too much time in hospitals, who fight for their futures, belongs to you …
My BFF of thirty years, you’ve earned your happiness, And now we can dress and re-dress your beautiful baby girl …
To many more tomorrows. I love you
I ignored the printed flyers
for the upcoming homecoming; cheerleaders encouraged school spirit with painted signs hanging haphazardly above rows of lockers. I spun the combo lock until open. I smashed against the metal lockers trying to stay out of everyone’s way. Freshman jocks crowded below me, grabbing blindly while someone with hooves stepped on my foot but didn’t notice.
The girl next to me smiled—what was her name? Becky? Becca? She told me once, back in freshman year when we were assigned these spots. I stared at the empty cavern of my locker and carefully removed the biology textbook and lab notebook I needed next period. She opened her locker door and a postcard fluttered out. I grabbed it, before it hit the floor and got trampled under clumsy jock feet. I studied the glossy photograph before handing it back. The image of an adobe chapel and cerulean skies was gorgeous. Haunting.
She waited and let me look, then answered my unspoken question. “That’s El Santuario de Chimayo in New Mexico. Cool, huh? They say the dirt is miraculous.”
I let go and she restuck it to the inside of her locker next to
dozens of postcards seemingly from all over the world: Buddhas and temples, pyramids and caves, battlefields and shipwrecks. It was as if she’d crammed the Travel Channel into the tiny cubicle.
She saw my glance and said, “My cousin likes to send snail mail. We want to travel together someday.”
“Oh.” I didn’t know what else to say, so I nodded. Had I gotten a postcard this year? Ever? Did I want to travel?
She shrugged as if waiting for harsh judgment and slammed her locker door before scurrying to her next class.
“Thanks,” I called quietly, unsure why I felt the need to thank her and pleased she didn’t seem to hear me.
I turned the corner toward bio and drew up sharply when the Skirt crew popped out of nowhere. I dodged and weaved, thinking I was in their way.
No. They’re circling me
I stopped and froze, but didn’t take my eyes off the Captain with her matching hair ribbons and school mascot in glittered tattoo on her cheek.
“You have a lot of hair.” One of the Skirts spoke from behind me. I felt her hand on my braid, encircling it and tugging down the length until her hand was somewhere below my butt.
“Yeah.” I clutched my books tighter against my chest, wishing instead for armor, or a Kevlar vest.
Another girl said, “We’re holding a hair drive.” It was as if she opened the floodgates because they all started talking at once, like a flock of gulls fighting over a clam.
“You know? For kids without hair.”
“You have a lot of hair.”
“And it’s so blond. Do you bleach it?”
I shrugged and shook my head, trying to answer and dodge their gazes at the same time. My hair was so purely blond it appeared white, especially in the summertime. I never dyed it, and I only trimmed the split ends every few months. I brushed it one hundred times before bed each night, even when I had the flu. I loved my hair.
I am my hair
The Skirts’ Captain refocused the conversation. “West Haven is also holding a hair drive.”
Like puppets, they reiterated, “There’s a trophy.”
“We want the trophy.”
“We deserve the trophy.”
As they saw the football team’s quarterback approach, one Skirt tittered and called, “Hi, Leif, good luck in the game tonight!”
“Thanks, girls.” He winked at the others and waved without stopping. But when his eyes met mine, he frowned and turned away. I wasn’t worth a wink. Or a wave.
“We’ll see him at the game. Focus,” Captain snapped to the others.
“Uh.” I tried to step around again. I was already late for class and the empty hallway made my heart thump and shift within my chest. What did they want?
“Look, we need your hair to win. You need an invitation to Kaylie’s Halloween party.”
“She does?” a Skirt asked from behind me.
“I do?” Seniors-only party. Only worthy underclassmen were exceptions. As a sophomore I didn’t qualify, and I certainly wasn’t worthy. “Oh.”
I wanted to ask why, if they needed hair so badly, I saw none of their perfectly highlighted and toned lengths cut short for the cause. But I couldn’t force the question out of my throat.
“So do we have a deal?” The Captain stepped closer. The circle tightened like a tourniquet. I felt hands reach for me.
How do I get out of here? Where’s the roving teacher to break up loitering in the halls?
“Uh. Let me think about it—”
She lunged closer. “What’s there to think about? Don’t you want to come to the party?”
“Can I bring a friend—” Part of me thought that might kill the deal. But part of me wanted to go to that party. At least be the one who was invited and said “No, thank you” on my terms. I wasn’t brave enough to decline.
“Sure, whatever.” She snapped gum and waved her hand toward the Skirts behind me.
“Okay, then I’ll tell you tomorrow, first thing—” Trying to buy myself time and distance. Find oxygen not polluted with the latest cheap, and fruity, body spray. Formulate a plan. Like getting really sick before school tomorrow. Like appendicitis or tuberculosis. Mono wouldn’t cut it with this crew. Janey-the-backflipper had it last year during Spirit Week and they put her bed on wheels and made her attend cheer finals.
“I have to ask—” But I didn’t even finish my sentence before they whipped out the ponytail elastic and the gleaming shears. I froze. There, standing in hallway 6B, between classes, the hair I’d grown my entire life disappeared. I heard it, every snip, and snap, and slice. I knew hair didn’t have nerve endings, but I felt each crack, each break of each strand.
In the three minutes between third and fourth period.
When I struggled, they grabbed and held with perfect manicures and manacle hands.
My breath faded, then returned.
My heart stuttered, then raced.
My eyes closed, then teared.
My hand groped until I felt the cold metal of a locker bank to my right. My head floated above my body. Faint white spots flew across my vision. I leaned against that piece of wall as if it was the only thing keeping me upright.
“Are you okay?” One of them peered down at me as though I was an odd science experiment. I wondered if she’d catch me if I fainted, or just move to the side and let me splat against the cement floor.
I didn’t speak, didn’t answer her stupid question as the late bell rang.
“This totally puts us over the top. Trophy time.” They high-fived and turned to leave.
I managed to say, “Please?” Was I begging for my hair back? Was I begging to time travel? I knew I wasn’t asking for the party invitation, and yet that was what they heard.
One Skirt thrust the flyer into my hand. An ugly sneer shiny with lip gloss instructed me, “Don’t dress like a prude, though, okay?”
With that, they disappeared, spiriting away my braided hair, into the maze of hallways. Hair I brushed one hundred times a night before bed and shampooed with organic natural ingredients. Hair I let fall in front of my face so I didn’t have to make eye contact with the classmates on either side of me.
I reached a hand up to my head, palming neck skin and
airspace I hadn’t recently noticed. If ever. The back of my neck felt soft and downy, like brand-new. Like it hadn’t been in the sun or wind or rain. Ever. The ridges on either side of my neck, the concavity between them, felt especially tingly, like the nerves there fired rapidly, trying to figure out what happened.
Hair fell against my chin in odd points, but the whole back of my head was a chopped-up mess of layers. I headed for the bathroom. I didn’t know if I wanted to see the damage.