Spirit Page 50

The solitude left him with too much room for thinking, however, and he felt worse out here. Again, he found himself wishing for a pair of wraps and a heavy bag—or an opponent and a set of mats.

When the sliding door opened, he braced himself for another lecture from Michael.

So he was surprised when a woman’s voice said, “Can I join you?”

His eyes snapped open. Hannah, the girl from the kitchen. The firefighter. Michael’s new girlfriend.

She was pretty, slender and casual without looking delicate. Hunter could see solid muscle in her arms, and he knew from his escapades with Gabriel that using firefighting equipment was no joke. She wasn’t old, but there was nothing young about the weight in her eyes.

She’d seen a lot. He could tell.

She’d been at the carnival last night. Gabriel had said something about her wanting to put him on a helicopter to shock trauma. Had she seen Calla? Would any of the bodies be identifiable after the fire?

He didn’t want to ask.

She was still looking at him, a hand on the back of the adjacent Adirondack chair.

“Sure,” he said.

She dropped into the chair beside him and stared up at the same sky. Her breathing was calm and even. He had no idea what she was doing out here.

“You know,” she said without looking at him, “we once got this call for a guy whose girlfriend ripped all the piercings right out of his eyebrow.”

“Sick.” He paused. “What did it look like?”

“Blood everywhere. He had a safety pin or something run through four hoops, and she grabbed it and yanked it off. They all came out.”

He glanced over, intrigued that her voice held the same horror and fascination that he was feeling. “Were they fighting?”

“Ah . . . no. In the ‘moment,’ I guess you could say.” She was smiling.

He looked back at the sky. “That’s a hell of a moment.” “There was another guy who’d pierced his . . . ah . . .”

“I get it.”

“Yeah, that was ripped out during a fight. I think I learned a whole new vocabulary on that call. But that’s no comparison to the guy who took a Sawzall to his—”

“Not that I’m complaining or anything,” said Hunter, trying to stop that particular story. “But did you really come out here to tell me ambulance stories?”

“I’ve got some really good ones.” She paused. “You okay?”


“Your mom was pretty upset when she got here.”

“Good for her.”

He was ready for a lecture, but Hannah shrugged. “I didn’t want to worry her more and tell her what you looked like last night.”

He wondered if that would have made a difference and decided he didn’t care one way or another.

Oh, who the hell was he kidding? He cared.

“Are you going to take the EMT course with Gabriel in the spring?”

He glanced over in surprise. He hadn’t even considered it.

She was looking back at him. “What’s with the look? I thought you guys were best friends.”

“Not really.”

“You braid his hair wrong or something?”

Hunter smiled. He liked this girl. “Something like that.”

“So what’s with your mom? Why are you so mad at her?”

He glared back at the sky and decided maybe he didn’t like this girl that much.

Hannah shrugged and he caught the motion out of the corner of his eye. “I mean, she was practically hysterical when she found out you weren’t here. They must have been talking about the unidentified kids on the news. Michael had to tell her about fifteen times that you had gotten home from the carnival, that you were fine.”

Hunter scowled. He wished that didn’t make him feel guilty.

They sat there in silence for a long moment.

Then Hannah said, “Look, either you’re going to talk or I’m going to have to finish the story about the guy who chopped off his penis. Your call.”

Hunter snorted with unexpected laughter.

Then he sobered, thinking of those unidentified kids. “I don’t know how you can joke after—after last night—”

“Because the alternative is going crazy? If you can’t fix what’s wrong, you focus on what you can make right.”

Hunter looked at her. “My dad used to say that.”

“My dad, too. It’s a good dad thing to say.”

The sudden emotion grabbed Hunter around the throat, and he almost couldn’t breathe through it. He hated this, how it never came on slowly but instead snuck up like a ninja to punch him right when it was least expected. He had to shift to the edge of the chair and press his fingertips into his eyes.

Hannah scooted to the edge of her chair, too, until she was close. She touched his shoulder, and there was something secure about it, something steadying. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“I’m fine.”

“Michael said your dad and your uncle died in a car crash.”

Now Hunter knocked her hand away, and he straightened. “I don’t want to talk about it. What are you even doing out here? I don’t even know—”

“You can’t fix it,” she said, her voice strong and even, as if he hadn’t interrupted. “You can’t.”

“I know that! You don’t think I know that? I can’t fix any of it!”

“It wasn’t your fault. Has anyone ever told you that? It wasn’t your fault.”

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