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(Catch up, here)

Barrett busts through the door first, to protect me, even though I told him it wasn’t necessary. The little kid we met downstairs said something about three being a lucky number and I knew. When I was faced with the real possibility that Grampy might be dead, I was swallowed by the most suffocating sense of loneliness in existence. A world without Grampy would be colder than a dark hole. “Barrett!” Grampy barks with the door is busted in. “What are you doing here?” “Is this your grandson?” a woman behind him asks. Ruthy. Grampy’s ears turn pink. “I’m his nurse, ma’am.” “Nurse?” “I’m June.” I step out from behind Barrett’s bulky frame. “His granddaughter.” I extend my hand. Ruthy takes it in hers, strong and cool. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” “What are you doing here?” Grampy asks, such a contrast to Ruthy’s soft words. “I came to bring you home. Running away like this is one of the stupidest things you’ve done.” I’m trying to hold it together. I was so afraid I wouldn’t see him agaon, and the relief that he’s here—safe—pricks my eyes with tears. “Coming after me is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done.” “Abel,” Ruthy says, clearly disappointed. I can’t help it. I think it’s the guilt, but I start to cry. A disgusting wet, snotty mess of a cry. I cover my face with my hands. Grampy’s fingers gently bring them down. His eyes are soft, apologetic, almost. But I know him. He’s never sorry for anything. Not really. “You’re stronger than this,” he says. It’s supposed to be an encouragement. And in a way, it helps. “Coming after you isn’t the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.” I sniff and wipe my nose on my sleeve. “You’re teen years don’t count,” he says with a smile. “They sent me to find you,” I blurt. In chorus, the entire room says, “What?” “The organization. They sent me to come find you.” “Why would they do that? They knew nothing about you and Jack.” I twist my fingers together and unwind them. “Because I’m a member. Have been for a few years now.” The rage that crosses Grampy’s face is like none I’ve ever seen before. His jowls shakes with his anger and the vein in his temple starts to throb. I take a step back. Barrett puts his hand on my back to keep me standing. “Why. Would you. Do that?” Grampy asks. I give a meek shrug. Right now, my reasons seem small and worthless. “They told me you were in danger. They said I needed to go and find you, bring you back safe. I was only trying to protect you.” “Abel,” Ruthy says, a hand on his shoulder. “Try to remember when you were a part of the organization. How eager to change things we were. “ “I am. That’s what makes me so mad. Why, Junebug? Why would you do something like this?” “Because of that nickname! Because I was trying to prove myself to you. To show you that I was worth something.” “The nickname?” He wrinkles his forehead in confusion. “I heard you tell someone once that you thought I was obnoxious, just like a June bug.” He looks confused for a moment. Then he nods. “You didn’t hear the other half of that conversation. I told him I called you after my favorite thing in nature. June bugs are beautiful, just like you. As well as resilient and tough.” “You think I’m tough?” “You joined the organization to protect me, didn’t you?” I smile. “I guess.” “Why don’t I make some tea?” Ruthy says. “I have a feeling it’s time for Abel to clear the air of secrets.” “I agree,” I say.

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