When the Sky Fell on Splendor(10)

How would we have done that? Shot it with a cannon?

Arthur opened his mouth as if to pose the question, but the sheriff held up a hand. “Not a peep, Arthur Schmidt. Remember that anything you say to me can and will be used against you in a court of law, so it’s best just not to say anything without your dad here. And possibly a lawyer.”

Still, Arthur couldn’t resist. Impulse control: not a thing for him. “What are we being accused of, exactly?”

Sheriff Nakamura sighed. “Nothing just yet. So let’s keep it that way.”

He caught my eyes in the rearview mirror and gave me a strained smile. It was unconvincing, his true emotions far overshooting his feigned one.

That was something I’d always loved about Remy and his dad, that their feelings were out in the open, honest, even when their words weren’t.

Ever since the accident, there’d been an anger in me that never burned quite strong enough to escape. It was stuck in my gut, embers that never died, even as layers of sadness and fear and whatever else got piled over it.

I was angry at the world, for what it had done to us. Angry it would never care. Angry that it would go on like it always had and never acknowledge what had changed.

The voiceless anger had started in the hospital waiting room, my throat aching with all the screams that couldn’t find a way out, and that was when I’d looked across the room and seen him.

A boy who couldn’t stop screaming. A thrashing boy. Fighting tooth and nail against what was happening, like he could stop it, or at least force the world to bear witness to his pain.

And I’d thought, You.

You are like me.

You feel what I feel.

* * *


The hospital parking lot was hot, even though it was only May, but the waiting room outside the ER was so cold that all the hair on my body jerked upright.

Voices echoed off the mint-green walls and the televisions playing the local news from the uppermost corners of the room. The ugly pink-and-green chairs along the walls went unused; everyone was standing.

A handful of police officers crowded around the double doors to the ICU, and people were clustered there, arguing with them.

My vision fuzzed as I scanned the mass of people for Mom. Where’d she go?

I only realized I’d said it aloud when Arthur answered, “I’m looking, Fran, same as you.”

I found her in the corner, pressed up to Dad, sobbing into his chest. His hand was cupped around the back of her head, his mouth murmuring against her forehead.

My stomach felt like it was free-falling through my body.

All I’d wanted on the ride over from school was for Mom to look at me, to reach her hand out, so I’d feel safe, so I’d know that whatever had happened to Mark was fixable.

Watching her fists curl into Dad’s shirt, I understood, suddenly, irrevocably, that my mother could do nothing to protect me, or to fix this.

Arthur had wandered off to get answers from a chubby boy in all black with bulging blue eyes, and I was alone.

No one could help me, or even see me.

And then I spotted him: a boy with a mop of shiny dark hair and deep brown eyes, with skinny shoulders and scabby knees that poked out from Dickies shorts. He was arguing with the cops blocking the door.

“Please,” the boy said. “Please let me back there, please.”

One of the cops had him by the shoulders, holding him back. “I know you’re worried, buddy. I know you are, but your dad’s strong, and there’s nothing—”

The boy shook free. “Let me see him! I need to see my dad.”

“You need to stay calm. Be brave, okay?”

He started screaming, tearfully swearing, trying to physically move past the cops, but they kept buffeting him back, gently.


At any other moment, I might’ve been embarrassed to watch it, wanted to crawl out of my skin at the sight of someone my age kicking at a hospital door, shouting half-formed, swear-laced insults at two adults who were looking at him like he was a toddler hurling a pacifier around.

But I felt it too, everything he was raging against, the way the whole world had become his enemy. I wanted to kick, spit, yank hair, but the thing I wanted to fight was too big and unhurtable.

I wanted to tussle with the dirt, rip the grass out of the earth, smash the hospital windows until someone looked right at me and saw my pain.

One of the officers tried to grab the boy’s shoulders, and he tripped backward from her, turned, searching for something, someone who could help him, but everyone was wrapped up in their own fear.

I wanted him to know that I saw him. That someone heard him.

When his eyes caught mine, I lifted one hand.

His mouth was ajar, the corners twisted downward, denting his cheek.

Slowly, he lifted his hand. His eyebrows peaked together. They seemed to ask, You too?

Two days later, he would walk up to me in that same waiting room and introduce himself as Remy Nakamura, my future best friend (he wouldn’t say that part, but I like to think it was implied), and three days after that, Arthur would go out to ride bikes with Nick Colasanti Jr., whose father was killed in the blast.

Dad would drag us along to Nick Sr.’s funeral (Mom would stay at the hospital with Mark), and there we’d see a lanky, dark-haired girl who carried a book in lieu of a purse, though she was polite enough not to read from it until the service was over and she was seated at the dismal potluck’s kids’ table with the rest of us: me, Arthur, his new friend Nick, my new friend Remy, and Remy’s cousin Levi, who was enormous compared to us and, for some reason, wearing a baby blue suit with shoulder pads in it.

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