Chapter 35

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Ever seen your mother cry? Not a very nice experience is it? Not when you see the mascara running down her cheeks and the little sniffles she makes. Just seeing her like that makes everything come back: all the guilt, all the grief. I now have a new load on my shoulders and it seems like this burden will be with me a while.

Zach and Angie come back, both laden with rucksacks. Soon the whole house is full of rucksacks and bags and people who are going and will probably never come back again.

Then, I don't know how, but everyone is saying goodbye. Everyone is hugging and murmuring farewells and wishing luck. I stare at it all, getting caught up in it all without actually processing it all.

"Bye, Amelia," Zach says with a sad smile before turning to my mother and bidding her an equal farewell. Angie comes next but her face is lit up in excitement, as though she can't wait for this adventure.

Then Dad. He's put on a mask that looks happy. He's trying to end this on a sweet note because it will probably be the last memory of him I'll have.

"Bye, Meelie," he says with his usual smile as he reels me into a hug. "Make sure you look after Maisie."

I nod into his chest, willing myself not to cry into his shirt. I'd only just found him and now he's leaving again. Then he's pulled away and he's moved onto my sister.

Josh approaches me, looking wary like he doesn't know what to do. I look at the floor, dumbfounded too. I can't believe how much I've discovered about him over the past few days. But now it's time to say goodbye and keep those memories with us.

"Keep this for me," he says as he hands something over. I look down and see the purple lavender deodorant in his hands. If I breathe in deep enough, I can smell the sweetness in the air, lingering a little.

Now I look up. "Do I honestly smell that bad?"

He shrugs but he's smiling. "Think of it as a goodbye gift."

I want to tell him not to remind me that he's going but I guess I'll never be able to really skirt round the truth in the end. I'll have to face it eventually, someday or another.

"Be brave for me," he murmurs, slipping the deodorant bottle into my hand. "And you'll let me keep the gun?"

I see him fingering something in his pocket and then nod. "You know how to use it."

"Okay, good." He smiles and it reaches his eyes so the chocolate fountain trickles with kindness. And they're the last thing I see before the door shuts closed.

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