The nervous boy paced and circled in a shady spot near the side of the road. His left arm twitched as he raised it to rub his forehead. Yes...yes..people were late all the time...but what if this time was different? Ah! His mind burst out in all directions at once, throwing together potential possibilities. She could have been grounded for some minor offence. She could have forgotten their meeting--no that wasn't possible! O! She could have been hit by a car on the way! He looked around wildly--what should he do? He had to find her--NOW! But if he left this spot and she did come, that would hurt her deeply. But...what if she had left him! Left him like all the others...
Suddenly, the world around him vanished. A toddler, deep within his memory, broke away from his mother and ran down the street toward the man he knew had to be his lost father... A four year old sat crying on the stairs, begging his mother not to leave him... A seven year old stood stiffly beside his grandfather's coffin, trying to be a 'little soldier'... And, from the not too distant past, a boy lingered outside the door of his grandmother's apartment, unaware that she had been dead for days... Any one or two of these events would be a lot for a child to deal with, but the combination of all four at once was overwhelming.
His brain was on fire. His chest ached. Sammy clutched at his purple Vikings jersey and gasped, "Darn it!...all of them...leave me...all of them!" He collapsed in a heap on the ground, his right hand smashing a rotten apple at the same time as a sharp twig stabbed up into his thigh. Fresh, pure blood flowed out, making a dark stain on his patched and faded jeans.
"Now..now..," he sobbed. "Now SHE has left me....she promised....she promised...why?..."
Then a voice, a special voice like a spring breeze, but nonetheless a human voice struggled to reach him. The cry of an owl, unusual in the day time, cut a path through the fog in his mind so that the voice could get through. He lifted his tear-stained face and wiped his cheek with a soggy hand.
"Sammy! Sammy, what's wrong?"
She dropped her bag in the grass and ran to him, helping him up. He flinched as he tried to stand, so she held him close, wiping his face with her fingers. She looked him over and saw the blood...
"Oh! Come over here to the bench. Let me help you. What happened?"
Together they made their way back to the road. He plunked down onto the green slats of the wayside bench, thoroughly ashamed of himself for being such a coward and a fool. he couldn't tell her what had happened..he just couldn't.