Silverwood: Chapter 12

The school bell rang. Henry followed the flood of students out the front door of the school and down the steps to the city sidewalk. His backpack was wider than his torso and weighed down with an excess of books and papers many of which had been in there for months. His sketchbook remained in his hand separate from the chaos in the bag. His shoes were both untied. His hair was stuffed under a baseball cap.

He didn’t notice his mom standing there waiting for him at the curb. Kate thought she would surprise him and pick him up and they could spend some time together. But Henry walked right by her, studying the light patterns made by sun coming down through the leaves above his head.
“Hey, kid,” Kate said, coming up alongside him.

“Mom!” Henry startled. “You’re picking me up.” His voice dropped and so did his face.

“I thought we could go get ice cream or something,” Kate said.

“So you can tell me we’re moving again.”

Kate stopped walking and Henry kept going. Henry was way ahead of this game. Kate did not want it to be a game. She wanted Henry to be happy.
Henry spun around to face her. “You know how I know when we’re gonna move, mom? Two things happen. One, I get like one friend. And two, you show up to pick me up at school.” He turned around and kept walking. He didn’t care who overheard.

He stomped off but only as far as a bench about half a block away where he slumped down and leaned back on his backpack. He swung his legs and stared straight ahead.

Kate followed and sat down next to him. She stared straight ahead too. She had nothing useful to say in this moment.

“Your dad…”

“Yeah, I know, my dad will probably meet us there. Right. He’s been supposed to meet up with us, oh, my whole life. Whatever, mom. I’m not a three-year-old any more. You can’t just wave something like ice cream in front of my face and make me forget that I hate my life.”

Kate thought about what to say next. She could tell Henry about how much she also hated how they were living and how desperately she wanted to quit but that she couldn’t. How their family had been time mechanics for all of history, but that the bottomless human capacity to battle each other over power and wealth had ruptured the clan and rendered their work impossible and put an end to her role as an Agent and dumped her into this cobbled-together bounty hunter lifestyle. How she and Henry’s father had made a deeply risky split-second decision nine years ago that couldn’t be taken back and that didn’t take Henry into account because in that moment they had no idea he was on the way. Kate grasped around in her mind for some idea of what to say that might make this situation seem even a shade better. But she came up with nothing so she sat there. Kids in backpacks walked by in groups, yelling and running and pushing on each other. They were all different sizes and shapes had different backgrounds and liked different things but they were all probably going to a home that was not going to change without warning and for no reason tomorrow or next week or next month.

Kate knew that all Henry really wanted was a home. One home.

The irony was, Kate wasn’t here to tell him they were moving. Not today, not this time. She really truly just wanted to take the kid for ice cream. But she knew that the moving conversation would probably happen sooner than later, as it always did, and Henry would connect this all together in his mind.

The flow of outward-bound students thinned and quieted down to just a few straggling or hanging around.

Henry began to slowly tip sideways. He kept going until he was leaning on his mom’s arm. Kate gently lifted her arm up and over and held him. He slumped farther until he was lying in her lap at an odd angle because of his backpack. They stayed like this for a while.

Eventually Kate said, “Well, can we at least get ice cream?”

“Okay,” Henry said. He turned his head to look up at her face surrounded by leaves and branches and bits of blue sky. Kate patted him a few times and squeezed him and they got up.

A girl with inquisitive eyes sat by herself on the school steps with her knees folded up under her chin. She watched through the railing as Henry and his mom walked away. Her eyes stayed fixed on him as he got smaller and smaller. He disappeared and she picked up her book bag and headed off in the opposite direction. In her hand was a gift, one of Henry’s drawing pencils.

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