Cara looks out the window. What do
they think happened?
They think it was a prank. Someone
picked two vulnerable kids and told them to do something stupid. Margot shakes
her head in disgust. Thats why I called the police so fast. I want whoevers
responsible for this to understand theyre in big trouble.
In the past, Cara hasnt worried
excessively about bullying. Riding the bus with Adam the first week of school as
she does every year, she got a glimpse of how little he registers to other
children. They walk past him, look through him, hardly see him, beyond the
obvious oddity of a third-grader riding the school bus with his mother. It is
sad, of course, and also a relief. If bullies have an intuitive sense for who
will burst into tears most easily, most spectacularly, it isnt Adam. He might
hum or walk away, but in all likelihood he will hear very little another child
says to him. She has to be honest about this, has to remind herself, often, to
remain clear on who Adam is and what he is capable of. If another child told
him to do something, I dont think he would. Thats not like Adam.
You never know, Cara. Hes changing.
Adams changed a lot this year.
In any other context, she would take
this as a cause for celebration. Hes changing! Even the principal noticed! Now
it only seems worrisome. Who is the girl?
Amelia Best? she says as a question,
as if hoping this name might ring a bell, which it doesnt. Shes new this
year. Fourth grade. Shes been at this school . . . what? Six weeks. Unusually
pretty little girl.
Very . . . She tries to find the right word. Blond.
Adam has disappeared with a notably
pretty little girl? For the first time in years, she thinks of her fifth-grade
fixation on Kevin Barrows and panics. Are you sure theyre together?
We dont know. We know Adam better
than we know her. We noticed Adam was missing first, because its so unlike him.
Hes so compliant these days that when he didnt line up at the first whistle,
Sue knew something was wrong and called the office right away.
Is it possible an older kid came over
from the high school? Or middle school?
Margot presses her fingertips
together. Theoretically, theyre not allowed, but its possible. The middle
school sits within viewing distance of the elementary schoolup a hill, with
some soccer fields in between. So Im afraid I have to askwhere is Adams
Cara looks up. She hasnt expected
this. Hes not . . . in the picture. This is her standard answer, the one
nobody ever presses her past.
Right, I know that, but where is he?
Im only asking because the police have asked several times. Apparently, an
absent father is the first place they look.
Cara feels her mouth go dry. I dont
know who his father is . . . exactly.
Margot raises her eyes in surprise.
Oh. So hes never been in the picture?
No. He wouldnt know.
At all? Anything about Adam? Theres
no chance hes involved in this?
Cara shakes her head. None.
Margot holds up her hand. Thats all
I need to know. She looks out the window of her office, as if shes
contemplating going out there right now, telling someone this. Then she turns
back, with a new thought: Do you think if Adam was out on the playground, he
could have heard a radio, maybe, playing in the woods?
Caras stomach begins to pound, like a
second heart. Let him not be in the woods, she prays. Yes, she says softly.
He could have heard something no one else did.
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