Joe’s word echoed in Hannah’s head as she
walked the streets searching for Ben. How typical
of Joe to blurt it out like that at her casually as
goodbye or hello or have a nice day.
Okay, it hadn’t been that casual but it caught
her by suprise. And she’d been very aware of
Ruby in the backseat, her face filled with pain.
Hardly the moment to tell him the feeling was
mutual and that she adored him, body and soul.
She checked her watch. She’d been searching
for nearly forty minutes now. Her phone buzzed
in her pocket. Joe’s name showed on the screen.
“How is she?” she asked as she took the call.
“Broken bone in her wrist. When she felt on her
arm like that I was pretty sure that’d be the
“But she’s okay?”
“She’s fine. Getting a cast put on as we speak.
“I’ve checked at the school or local shops.
nowhere to be found.” she reported.
“All right. I’ll come join you once I’ve got Ruby
“Mom’s there to look after her.”
“Good, that’ll save me from calling my mom.”
“If we don’t find him soon, we should probably
think about calling the police,” she said.
“Yeah, I know.” his voice was heavy with worry.
They agreed to communicate more when he got
close to the house, then Hannah ended the call.
She went towards the direction of the highway.
She was passing the local playground when she
caught a flash of something out of the corner of
lher eye. She stopped in her tracks. Ben had
been wearing a white T shirt.She peered into the
“Ben? Are you there? she called.
She held her breath waiting. Nothing but silence
greeted her. She walked further into the park
and saw there was a log bridge and she saw a
pale shape huddled in the darkness.
Ben. It had to be.
She ran fastly to the bridge and dropped to her
“Ben. Thank God. Are you okay?”
He flinched away as she has half expected. “Go
“I can’t do that, I’m sorry. Your dad’s worried sick
“Ben, why don’t you come out and we can go
home and talk? No one’s angry with you, if that’s
what you’re worried about.”
Silence. Then sobbing.
Hannah realized he was crying. Had been crying
for a while.
“Ben. Its okay.” she said.
She crawled a few feet inside the pipe so that
she was sitting next to him. She wanted to put
her arm around him very badly but doubted he’d
“Are you worried about Ruby? Is that it?
I just spoke to your dad and he said she was
going to be fine/”
Ben’s sobbing increased.
“Come on, let’s go home, she said again. “Don’t
you want to go home?”
He was crying so hard she almost didn’t hear
what he said.
“Why can’t you come home, Ben?”
His voice was broken and small and Hannah had
to strain to hear his reply. “Because it’s my fault.
They’ll all hate me once they know.”
She frowned. “I haven’t known your dad and
Ruby as long as you have, but I know that there
is no way they could ever hate you, BEn. They
love you. Absolutely they love you.”
Ben pressed his hands to his face. “That’s only
because they don’t know.”
“I’m sure that whatever it is, it’s not as bad as
“It is. It’s the worst.”
“Would it help if you told me? Maybe you’d feel
better if you got it off your chest.”
He shook his head.
“What if I promised not to tell anyone else unless
you give me permission?
Ben sniffed a few times, thinking her offer over.
“You can’t tell anyone.”
“I swear it will be our secret.”
There was a long silence. “The day Mom died, I
was supposed to get a lift home from karate with
George’s mom, but George and I had a fight
during class and I called MOm and asked her to
come get me.”
“If i hadn’t asked her to pick me up, she wouldn’t
have been in the accident. It’s my fault she
died,” Ben said brokenly.
For a moment Hannah was filled with a huge
sadness. Joe’s son had been carrying this
misplaced guilt around with him for two long
years. No wonder he’d been so angry and sad
“See, you hate me now. And Dad and Ruby will
hate me if they find out.”
Tears pricked her eyes, for a moment she was
overwhelmed. “Ben, I want you to look at me.”
His head came up. His face was streaked with
tears and his lip trembled with emotion. She held
“What happened was not your fault. It was an
accident. No one could have known that it would
“But she wouldn’t have even been there if it
hadn’t been for me.”
“Accidents happen all the time, for no reason,”
she said. “I know that’s kind of scary to think
about, but it’s true. You can’t take responsibility
for an accident.”
Ben frowned in the darkness. He shifted and
sniffed , wiping his nose on the sleeve of his T
“Has anyone ever told you how gross that is?”
she said lightly.
As she’d hoped, it shocked a laugh out of him.
“Yeah. Grandma. All the time.”
She pulled out her phone. “I’m going to call your
dad, let him know I’ve found you so he can stop
She kept the call short, letting JOe know they
were on thier way home. When she ended the
call, she simply sat in the silence for a few
“You ready to go?”
They crawled out. They were both silent as they
walked through the park to the street. Ben didn’t
speak up again until they were about to turn into
“Are you goint to tell him?”
“Your dad? No. I promised you I wouldn’t, and I
won’t. But I think you should.”
They both started walking again, Ben’s face in
concentration as he thought over what she’d
“If you want me to, I could tell him with you.
Would that make it easier?” she said.
Ben didn’t respond. They walked towards the
“Okay,” Ben said so quietly.
She glanced at him as Joe walked out onto the
front porch. Ben stopped in his tracks and they
stared at each other across the space of a few
“You okay?” Joe asked, his vioce rough with
Ben nodded. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt
Ruby,” Ben said.
“Your sister is fine, although she’s probably going
to drive you crazy asking you to sign her cast.”
“There is something I need to tell you. It’s about
Mom,” BEn said.
“Okay. Why don’t we go inside?”
He started to herd Ben toward the house, but
Ben hung back and glanced over his shoulder.
“Hannah, too,” he said.
It was the smallest of shifts, but it pierced her
“It’s okay, I’m coming. she said with a watery
Then she followed Joe and Ben into the house.