When I get back to the campfire, Mom’s just poured water on the coals and ash. Hot ash flying into dry needles can start a forest fires so last one up always douses it.
I stare at the steam rising, a rock in my stomach and the paper in my hand as Mom turns and sees me.
“I thought you’d turned in already,” she says. “We could have had a nice chat by the fire.”
She’s not demanding to know where I’ve been by myself so late; she’s trusting me.
My chest heaves as I suck in a big breath, then the tears start flowing and my body’s shaking and Mom’s there putting her arms around me, rubbing gently along my spine the way she always does when we’re hurt.
She kisses the top of my head and says “We love you.”
I hand her the note. She gives me the flashlight so she can read and still keep an arm around me. She holds me tighter the farther she gets. At the end, she’s crying and pulls me into a full hug and kisses my forehead and looks me in the eyes.
“We love you. Nothing will every change that. Next time you’ll make different choices. That’s all any of us can do, is try to do better next time.”
It’s going to be okay. I’m still going to go to boarding school, because it’s a better school and it’s in the mountains not far from where we used to live. I’ll be more careful making new friends there and I’ll go to Mary’s for long weekends, back with all my old friends.
I’m going to be okay.
The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.