Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye

Free Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye by Wendelin Van Draanen

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Authors: Wendelin Van Draanen
(and misadventures) and decades of being (both metaphorically and musically) Troublemakers.
    “Dude!” Marko cried when he spotted his best friend. And after dropping the bag he was carrying so he couldwrap Darren in a long (somewhat crushing) man hug, he pulled back and asked, “She hasn’t come to?”
    Darren shook his head.
    Marko studied his best friend a moment and recognized that Darren was dancing on the edge of despair. So he got to work shoring him up. “But it hasn’t even been twenty-four hours, right? And she’s a pint-sized prizefighter, right? So she’s going to pull out of it.” He clasped Darren by the shoulders. “Dude, she is going to pull out of it!”
    The thing about a best friend is that they manage to carry authority without knowledge. You believe them, even if they have no idea what they’re talking about. Largely, this is because you
to believe them, and partly it’s because they’ve spoken authoritatively about things in the past that they’ve also had no actual knowledge of, and they’ve turned out to be right.
    In friendship (especially those of the male variety), a few tallies in the Right column easily overpower a plethora of points in the Wrong column.
    That’s just how it is.
    The upshot of this being that Darren immediately felt better.
    Lana, not so much.
    The sad fact was, Lana had no friend like Marko. No sister
sis-ta. Any overtures of friendship from other young mothers had been met with a detached coolness.
    Lana’d had plans beyond the jungle gym.
    She’d needed to focus on her goals.
    And once she’d returned to Hollywood, she’d foundshe needed to focus even harder. It was impossible to trust competing actors, and every role seemed to become a ruthless competition.
    It was also hard to make friends when you were hiding your real age, your embarrassing past, and the fact that you had a teenage daughter.
    So Marko’s sudden appearance at the hospital was, for Lana, a reminder of what she’d sacrificed.
    Plus, Marko was … childish.
    And always tapping on things.
    And how many times could a grown man say “Dude!” anyway?
    Lana knew better than to express her disapproval at the Troublemaking intrusion … but then came the shoes.
    “Dude, you’re gonna want to have these on when she wakes up,” Marko said, handing over the bag he’d brought. And when Darren saw that the bag contained the high-tops Sammy had given him, he immediately sat down, wrestled out of his boots, and laced on the shoes.
    Lana knew that these shoes had been customized by Sammy—“scribbled on” by her with little sayings and inside jokes. They were very similar to the shoes Casey had given Sammy for her fourteenth birthday, and they were, in a word, ugly.
    (And in another word, childish.)
    (And in a third, ridiculous.)
    (And in a … Well, it was best not to get her started.)
    The bottom line was that Lana just didn’t get it. Not about high-tops (which seemed flat, ill-fitting, and withtheir clownlike extension in the toe, not at all flattering), or the need to deface with Sharpies something that was ugly to begin with.
    So with the shoes out of the bag, the disapproving vibe coming off of Lana was now palpable.
    But Darren (being both male and in the presence of his best bro) was oblivious. “So glad you’re here, man,” he said as he grasped Marko in another quick hug.
    “Can I see her?” Marko asked quietly. “I’d really like to see her.”
    “Yeah, let’s go,” Darren said, then held Lana’s hand as the threesome made their way back to the ICU.
    Across town, a flamboyant resident at the Heavenly Hotel had seen the KSMY teaser regarding a girl hurled from the third-floor fire escape of the Senior Highrise. A fortune-teller by trade, Madame (Gina) Nashira had felt a distinct chill pass through her during the short segment, not simply because of the horrific act, but because she immediately had a suspicion as to who the girl might be.
    So after frantically

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