Jessi staggered under the grocery bags filling her arms.
"Wake your sister up," Jessi called.
Jessi put everything away then glanced at the clock.
"I pulled a twelve hour shift, and you guys aren't supposed to leave the house without telling me," Jessi snapped.
"Yeah, I don't remember sitting down," Jessi sighed.
Jessi, this is Laurie again, the nurse overseeing your cousin's care.
"They didn't," Jessi said.
Jessi was reminded of the last time she saw the mother of the cousins, a day before her death.
The similarities between the girl's appearance and the memory of her deceased mother made Jessi nauseous.
Jessi screamed at herself silently.
Jessi was crying by the time she reached her cousin.
Jessi hugged her the best she could, relieved, and stepped back.
Jessi smoothed the hair away from her face.
Brandon clutched his hands together across from Jessi, as if wanting to hug his sister but unwilling to make such a gesture.
"Jessi Campbell?" a nurse asked from the doorway.
Jessi hesitated then left her cousins, assured Ashley was relatively okay and Brandon was with her.
I didn't get your message until this morning, Jessi said lamely.
Jessi wanted to scream.
If it was up to them, the kids would be in a foster home, a fate Jessi found unconscionable.
Jessi wasn't expecting that.
Jessi grimaced, aware that such treatment involved multiple shots.
Jessi didn't say what she wanted, that prissy Ashley wasn't the type to roam the streets with thugs.
"I don't watch much television," Jessi said, anxious to get back to her cousin.
Jessi gritted her teeth and forced a smile.
"Sure, I …" Jessi glanced towards the bed.
Jessi released a deep breath.
Jessi recognized the wall the teen girl threw up.
Jessi crossed to the wardrobe the same color white as the walls and opened it.
Her eyes flickered to Jessi, who couldn't quite read the expression on her face.
Jessi, this is Jonny.
The awkward silence made Jessi antsy.
Jessi went to the door, crossing her arms at the weird charge around the kid named Jonny.
Jessi waited to see if she'd wake up instead of standing in the hallway, being threatened by a kid a little older than Brandon.
Jessi turned towards the door, ready to leave him in the hallway so she could lock herself and Ashley in the room.
Fed up, Jessi opened her mouth to warn him off one last time before she decked him.
Jessi froze, not completely connecting with the fact she stood in a place unlike the coastal southern California area.
Jessi faced the youth again and stepped away from him, his energy adding to her distress.
Despite the surreal experience, Jessi saw something in his face that reminded her of the cousins.
Jonny turned to face the person Jessi hadn't heard arrive.
Jessi resisted the urge to move away.
Jessi blinked, staring at the space where he'd been.
Startled, Jessi almost laughed.
Jessi closed her eyes and took it.
With another curt nod, Jessi opened the door and went into Ashley's room.
The idea that someone hurt Ashley to get to her made Jessi feel guiltier.
Plastering on a smile, Jessi crossed to her and hugged her hard enough that Ashley objected.
Jessi was relieved to hear the girl's exasperated sigh.
Ashley was okay, and Jessi would do anything to keep her that way, even if it meant robbing some stranger named Xander.
Jessi rang the doorbell four times, nervously pacing in front of the closed door.
Jessi didn't want to know what that meant.