26 - The instinctual migration of majestic ocean and common land mammals.

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Over the next few weeks, I found myself retracing steps I took when I was younger, in some pathetic attempt to rewrite my history and accept everything that happened. I appreciated Karen's belief in my need to make peace with my past, but it was proving more complicated than I had imagined, and I had no idea how to truly achieve that end without going back to the places where it all began.

I brought Madden along for my roller coaster ride down memory lane. He had been the biggest and most important part of me for so long, but he really had no idea who that person actually was. Some days I felt I barely even knew her myself anymore.

I had thought I was doing the right thing, by keeping the truth from him. But he was making it clearer every day that he knew more than the censored version I had presented to him for years, and it was growing harder to bend the truth with an incredibly insightful and intuitive eleven-year-old.

I woke him up early on Saturday. He didn't like it and tried to bury himself deeper under the covers. Unfortunately for him though, he wriggles a lot in his sleep and had untucked the sheets at the end of the bed so I was able to get my hands in there to tickle his tiny little feet, and he sprung up quicker than anything.

"Alright, alright! I'm up. What do you want?" he said. He was annoyed and pretending to be angry at me, but he couldn't keep this up for long.

"We're going on a road trip. Get dressed," I said, smiling at him. His long hair was curled in so many directions I could only imagine the pain of trying to brush out all those knots. I had been trying to get him to cut it for months, but he was adamant that he wanted to grow it out.

"Where are we going?" he asked. His eyes were still closed as he used his hands to blindly navigate himself out of bed and towards his wardrobe.

"A few different places," I said. "Come on, get ready. We need to get moving."

As I walked back towards my bedroom I heard a long, angry groan from the one I just left behind me. "Are you freaking kidding me? It's only 6:30! On a weekend!"

After a little more whining and complaining I managed to get him into the car. I hadn't told him where we were going, but he was too sleepy to be curious just yet. He fell asleep again as soon as we hit the freeway, and didn't wake up until I parked the car. Once he had wiped his eyes clear of the lingering sleep still gripping him in the Realm of the Unconscious, he saw the ocean and bolted out of the car so quick I didn't even get the chance to wish him a good morning again.

He made it to the top of the weathered, wooden staircase that wound through the shrubs and down the cliff before I was even out of the car. He knew enough to not go down without me, but was bursting with energy that only a child would have upon just waking, and was urging me to hurry up. "Well, if you came and helped me carry something, I'd get there sooner."

"Ugh, fine," he said, rolling his eyes and racing back to me. Adolescence with this kid was going to be a nightmare. He stopped before he grabbed the bag out of my hand and gave me a tight squeeze around my stomach. At least he'll be a cute nightmare.

I chuckled to myself and kissed him on the head. He was getting so tall I barely even needed to bend down anymore. He took the bag from my hands, slinging it over his shoulders and ran back to the stairs. I wasn't far behind him this time so didn't get the rush along to hurry up.

"Off you go. Just be careful," I relinquished. I followed him down the stairs, remembering all the times I had walked down the same path so many years ago. I hadn't been here for years, but it felt like no time had passed at all. If I closed my eyes I might have seen a younger Bree, Seth and Brayden bounding along after Madden, with Hadley on my hip, too lazy to make the walk down on her own.

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