by Grasshopper

Chapter 1

Cole Hewett's freckle-covered nose just cleared the green paint of his dad's truck window. He peered out as they drove along the one-way road leading to the Kindergarten entrance of McLaren Consolidated School. His six year old aqua blue eyes caught everything; the tall teachers flapping their arms at the scared little kids, the crying mothers, the bored dads. He felt the seat beside him bouncing again.

"Callie, stop bouncin'," he grumbled, turning to look into eyes exactly the same shade of startling blue. His twin sister had been crazy excited about this day for weeks. Cole - not so much.

He didn't mind because he loved books and drawing and games and stuff, but he'd heard the older kids talking at church and he knew there was other stuff like sitting very still in a really hard desk, going to the chalkboard when you didn't know the answer, eating food you didn't like and, worst of all, really mean kids. It was that last one he fretted about. Cole had never met anyone who didn't like him and he wasn't sure what he'd do when he did.

He was used to being free, riding in the saddle in front of his dad up into the hills to check the cattle, playing with Callie in the barn chasing the chickens and best of all, climbing the cottonwood tree out back behind the house to lay sprawled along the biggest branch watching the squirrels and birds eat the sunflower seeds he stuffed in his pockets to feed them.

"Okay, guys," his dad said in his too loud voice as the truck rumbled to a stop. "Now, you two be good, you hear? I'll be right here at 12:30 to carry you home. Your mom and I will be missing you something terrible."

Cole knew when his dad sounded like that he was trying not to be sad. He'd heard that same sound at Grandma Jennie's funeral and when Nana Jean was sick in the hospital. He knew he didn't have to say anything just like he always knew what Callie was going to do. Whenever Cole was quiet, Callie filled in the blanks. She jumped into their dad's lap and hugged him real tight. "We'll miss you somethin' terrible, Daddy. Here be kisses from me and Coley to last til 12:30, right Coley?"

"Right," Cole grinned. We'll draw you pictures, okay Daddy? 'Member you promised to watch out for Snap today while I be gone. He'll be kinda missing me, I'm thinkin'."

Cole had left his blue heeler puppy tied in the barn so he wouldn't run after the truck when they drove off. Heelers like to chase trucks and bite onto the back bumpers. "You'll let him loose when you get back home, right?"

Albert Hewett nodded his head, "Of course I will." He looked at these two children, the miracle children he never thought he'd have and wanted to just turn the truck around and take them back home. He didn't want to make this trip. He wanted the years back when his children never left his side, where he had the answers to all their questions about 'Why?' and where he could protect them from a the world that would start shoving its values down their innocent little throats.

He and his wife, Sarah, hadn't been able to have children for years and had about given up when, one day, after a checkup at the doctor for what she thought was stomach flu, his wife came home with the most beautiful smile on her face. He'd never seen her so peaceful and happy. Cole had been the firstborn, with Callie following three minutes later. These two children were the lights of Albert and Sarah Hewett's lives. Where Callie was never still, bubbling and full of questions, Cole was quieter and had the heart of a saint. He couldn't see a hurt animal without trying to save its life and he never had a cross word for anyone.

Albert could see himself and he could see Sarah in both of them. Albert was so afraid of what the world was going to show these two. He hoped they would be strong enough. All he could do today was open the door of his truck and send them on their way.

He watched his son bounce out, hitting the ground, kicking up dust. Albert reached up for Callie and lifted her down, straightening her pretty blue dress with the white sash. Sara had wanted to dress them in the same shade of blue to match their eyes, but Cole had begged to look different. He had on stiff brand new jeans and a red and white striped polo shirt. Callie's long blonde hair was braided, tied with matching blue bows while Cole's short curls had been slicked back and parted to one side. Albert laughed, knowing Callie's braids would be undone and Cole's curls a tangle by the end of the morning.

Albert reached for their hands. "Don't go with us, Daddy," Cole said quietly. "We know just what to do. Mom brought us last week, 'member? We go to the lady with the green clipboard. That's our teacher, Mrs. Harris."

Albert understood. The kids wanted to try this on their own. Smiling, he helped them slip into the straps of their colorful new backpacks with their names printed across the back flap and handed them each the lunchbox they had chosen filled with all their favorite sandwiches and treats.

Albert leaned against the truck door and watched the twins walk bravely along the sidewalk and up to the teacher with the green clipboard. He saw Callie slip her tiny hand into Cole's. Whatever happened today, they would have each other. They would always have each other.

Albert Hewett had so many hopes, so many dreams for his children. He watched as Callie and Cole got in line. Cole, standing still and quiet, well as still as six year olds can stand, cocking his head to size up the other children in his class, and Callie bouncing as usual, as if to say she was ready to get this job of learning and growing up on the road. The class walked into the building and the twins looked back once to wave.

Driving home, Albert had to smile remembering Sarah this morning. "I can't go with you to take them, Albert. I'll blubber like a baby and embarrass us all," she said. He knew she'd be waiting on the front porch, her hand to her eyes against the morning sun, the other hand clutching her apron. He could tell her how happy and brave they were on their first day at school. He would let Snap loose, do his chores and wait for his kids to come home. He didn't know what life had in store for his children; all he could hope was that they found love and happiness with as little pain as possible. He wiped a tear from his cheek.

"Come on, Wes, we'll be late to the bus and Father will be angry. Hurry!!"

Wesley Straihan had gotten up early to dress himself in his bestest shirt for his first day of Kindergarten, but he couldn't seem to move his feet. He had been waiting for this day such a long time, but now that it was here, he was terrified to leave the security of his room. True, he shared it with his older brother Karl Jr. and lived in constant fear of him, but Karl Jr. was the fear he knew, not the fear of the unknown.

Wes had been dreaming of going to school ever since Mercy had told him about the painting and games and all the other children. He wasn't used to children or games, but he wanted to try. He wanted something he didn't even have a name for yet.

He stood behind the bedroom door, his hands clinched, his back ramrod straight, wishing for the millionth time that he could magically become a red tailed hawk and soar away to a land where he'd never be scared again.

He kept his eyes glued to his two best friends, the small brown bear with one button eye and torn ear and the tiny faded golden lion, no bigger than the palm of his small hand, lying on his ragged blue blanket by the window. He would worry about Poppy and Leo all day. Thinking hard, then deciding, he ran over to the window, scooped Leo up and pushed him carefully into the front pocket of his patched jeans, then grabbed Poppy up in the blanket. "I know you want to lie in the sunshine, but you'll be safer under here, okay?" Pushing the wrapped bear carefully under the cot he slept on in the corner, Wesley ran back to his hiding place behind the door.

The door rattled and Mercy peered in, her solemn brown eyes searching for her little brother. Mercy was eight years old and going to the second grade this year. It was her job to get Wes to school on time or there'd be all kinds of hell to pay when they got home. "Wes! Please! We need to go!!"

Wes heard the frightened tone in her voice and knew he couldn't let her get in trouble over him. He stepped out from behind the door and nodded his head.

Running down the stairs, grabbing the two already stained brown paper bags filled with the tomato sandwiches that Mercy had made the night before, the two children flew out the front door and lit out for the bus stop at the end of their dirt road.

" Bout time you two little dipshits got here. What, Wesleeeey? You couldn't leave your dollies? Little faggot! God, how did I get stuck with such losers for family? Well, don't come near me at school. I'll beat shit out of you tonight if I even SEE your faces. Got that?"

Wes stood behind Mercy, trying to be invisible. He was used to his brother Karl Jr., but it never stopped him from being afraid. Karl called him names all the time, names that Wes didn't even understand. He just could tell from the tone in Karl's voice that they were bad names. Names he didn't want to be called.

Karl Straihan Jr. was the spitting image of his father and his grandfather before him. Straihan the first had founded the Church of the Redemptive Suffering when the local Baptist church had asked his family to leave, saying that perhaps it would be better to take their decidedly unusual beliefs elsewhere. When Grandfather died, Father had taken the pulpit. Karl Jr. thought the whole church thing was a crock 'a bull shit but he'd never ever say that out loud .... Not and live to see another day.

Already 120 pounds and 5'3, Karl Jr. was the biggest kid in the fifth grade at McLaren School. This alone made him the school bully. Add on a father of whom he was terrified, a mother who had left him all alone, a god who looked the other way and you ended up with a ticking timebomb.

They clambered onto the old bus, Karl Jr. headed to the back to sit with his buddies. Mercy slid quickly into the seat behind the driver, old Mr. Cogswell, pulling Wes in beside her. "Always try to sit here," she whispered, "Mr. Cogswell will throw them off if they get too mean and, as soon as the door opens, jump out and get going. Karl Jr. never remembers to make any lunch and he'll grab yours."

Wes's eyes were huge round saucers. Red tailed hawk...red tailed hawk, he kept repeating over and over in his mind. He wasn't sure what to do when he got to school and Mercy would have to leave him. He felt himself begin to shake and he bit his bottom lip to calm down.

The bus rumbled into the bus circle and shuttered to a stop. As soon as Mr. Cogswell pulled the door lever, Mercy shoved Wes and they scrambled down the steps. "I'll meet you right out here when it's time to go home, okay? I promise. Go on now. Go through the big doors and find your class." Mercy ran off toward the older children's section and Wes breathed a sigh of relief when he heard Karl Jr. and his buddies move that way too. Wes sat down on a bench beside the steps to the big doors staring at them with confusion muddying his eyes. No one had brought the Straihan children to school to meet their teachers or find their classes. Wes figured maybe someone would just find him and maybe help him. No one did. He stuck his hand in his pocket and hugged Leo tight.

Okay...big doors. Big doors that are really hard to open. Wes tugged and got the door open just enough to squeeze through. He was clutching his little paper sack so hard that it was mushing the soggy bread inside.

"Now I'm inside," he whispered to himself, pressing his back to the inner wood. "Now what?" There were no people. He could hear music and talking, but he couldn't see anybody. The hall went on forever. A door opened off to his left and, since his eyes were staring at the floor, all he saw was a pair of funny red shoes. The red shoes lady spoke:

"And who would you be, young man, standing out here in the hall all alone? Are you selling apples?"

Wes jerked his eyes up and up. Apples? He looked into laughing green eyes in a round face covered with freckles surrounded by a mop of curly red hair. Perched on the lady's nose was a pair of bright red glasses hooked to some kind of chain around her neck.

"Are you the apple pie man?" she asked again.

Wes shook his head, his tongue totally tied.

"Hmmmm, then you must be a missing student. Are you missing? Well, of course not because you're right here, aren't you?" She laughed and the sound made Wes relax. She was joking with him.

"You have a name, apple pie man?"

"I'm not...........," he stammered, "I'm Wesley William Straihan, Ma'am."

"Ah," the funny lady glanced at a bright green clipboard, scrolled down a list and said happily, "Well, Wesley William Straihan, I'm Mrs. Harris and you belong to me."

Something in Wesley's heart melted. He began to smile, creating two deep dimples just beside the corners of his mouth. "Okay then," he sighed. "Okay."

Mrs. Harris took his hand and led him toward the room where happy jumping music was playing and there seemed to be a bagillion children all busy doing fun things. Clapping her hands together, Mrs. Harris said, "Look children, we have a new member of our happy class. This is Wesley Straihan. Make him welcome."

"Helllllooooo, Wesley," he heard the chorus of voices. Standing there in the doorway, he felt all their eyes check him out and size him up. It was an odd hopeful feeling. He hoped he looked okay. He hoped for just one friend.

"He's a dirty ragamuffin," one little girl whispered.

"He gots too much hair," another commented.

Cole Hewett saw the scared little boy at the door; his raggedy shirt so faded it was no color at all, his long brown hair cut unevenly, wearing much-scuffed cowboy boots instead of Nikes. Cole saw a bird with a torn wing, a puppy with a broken leg. Cole saw the fear and the hope in Wesley Straihan's eyes. "Oh, Callie," he whispered.

"Okay," she answered. They walked over to the funny little boy standing in the doorway. Callie took one hand and Cole the other.

Wes looked into Cole's friendly face, into Callie's smiling eyes and saw safety. "You look the same," he murmured.

"It bes cause we are twins. This is my sissy Callie and I am Cole. Come sit with us at the blue table. We be drawin' pictures." They led Wes to a table with four blue chairs. "Mrs. Harris said to draw a picture of our family so she can get to know us. See, here's mine." Cole held up a half-drawn sketch in crayon of a big ranch house surrounded by a riot of colorful flowers and a bright red barn with little balloon chickens running around.

He had one person drawn so far....a tall man, actually a tall stick with a balloon head and little balloon hands poking off stick arms that came out somewhere around his neck. On his balloon face was drawn a huge smile. "My daddy."

"Neat," Wes smiled. He looked around for some paper or maybe a crayon.

"Where is your backpack?" Callie asked. Wesley stared down at the table, not knowing how to answer.

Cole frowned, shaking his head at his sister. "Here Wesley, we can share."

Wesley looked at the giant box of brand new Crayolas. He'd never had new crayons before. He timidly pulled out a brown and began to draw. He saw nothing wrong with his drawing as he began to lay out a dilapidated two story house badly in need of paint with a broken front step and no flowers planted around the porch. He colored the house a muddy brown.

In the front yard stood a line of family; a man, huge, taller than the house. He wore a black coat and black pants and there was a silver buckle on his black belt. He had big black eyes.

Next to him stood a boy, almost as tall as the man. He was standing with clenched fists, his jeans too short and his shirt ripped.

Next came a girl. She was small, wearing a pretty violet dress and a violet bow in her long brown hair.

Wes stuck out the tip of his tongue as he worked on his picture. He wanted to get it just right so the teacher would like it. He drew himself; very small, a stick figure with no hands or feet and just some hair above a face with no features.

"Where's your mom?" Cole asked.

Wes frowned sadly, "I don't know. My mother is gone."

"You mean she died?" Callie asked in a hushed tone.

"I don't know. She is gone."

Gone? How did someone's mother just be gone? Cole patted Wesley on the shoulder awkwardly.

Mrs. Harris stood behind the children. Callie and Cole Hewett were drawing typical six year old renderings of a happy home. Not much detail to the people, but big smiles on their faces. The children in the pictures were a good size and the colors used were bright and cheerful.

Her eyes moved to Wesley Straihan's picture and a frown creased her forehead. Sighing, she remembered two other pictures from two other children, Karl Jr. and Mercy Straihan. Their drawings had not been as well detailed as Wesley's; he obviously had a great deal of artistic talent, but they were just as telling.

When she taught Karl Jr., then Mercy, she had tried to get Mr. Straihan in for a conference, but had never been successful. There had always been some excuse. Their mother, the reverend always said, was an invalid and couldn't come into town. The few times Mrs. Harris had seen her, Katherine Straihan had looked healthy. There were never any visible marks on the children and they weren't ever sick or starving, so she'd just cared for them as best she could here at school. When she'd seen the name 'Straihan' on her class roll, she'd sighed. These children always broke her heart.

Wesley had drawn himself so small... so small. He had thought about drawing himself as red tailed hawk flying in the sky, but didn't want to make Mrs. Harris mad.

She leaned over his picture, "Who have you drawn here for me, Wesley?" He looked up at her friendly face with timid, troubled eyes; what an odd color. Just for a moment, his eyes reminded her of someone .... It was a flash and then it was gone.

He pointed with a stubby finger, nail chewed to the quick, "This is Father. This is my big brother Karl. This is my big sister Mercy. I hope you don't mind if I kinda lied in my picture. Mercy always wants a violet dress."

Mrs. Harris remembered Mercy Straihan with her faded flannel shirts and hand-me-down jeans and knew just what her little brother was saying. "I don't mind. I bet Mercy would love to see the pretty picture you drew of her."

Mrs. Harris, like everyone else in McLaren County, had heard the story about Wesley's mother. Seems she had lit out right after little Wesley was born to go live with her sister's family in Utah. There was even whispering that she had run off with that handsome teacher at the high school. How a mother could leave three little children was beyond her, but having seen Mr. Straihan in town, Mrs. Harris couldn't really blame the poor woman. He always made her want to cross to the other side of the street, those piercing black eyes and that fierce forbidding scowl.

Clapping her hands together, she called out, "Come to the big blue rug, children. We're going to sing some lovely songs together."

Cole already knew all the words to The Farmer in the Dell, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Hey Diddle Diddle, Itsy Bitsy Spider and the rest from the tapes that Mom and Daddy bought Callie and him all the time. But Wes didn't seem to know any of the words. He was listening wide-eyed as Mrs. Harris sang each song in her clear happy voice. He began to clap his hands and he smiled, the first real smile of the day. This was school! This was a happy place! He loved school! Oh, this one was about the moon. It was going to be his favorite! He listened carefully and then his young voice sang out,

"I see the moon and the moon sees me. The moon sees the somebody I'd like to see. God bless the moon and God bless me. God bless the somebody I'd like to see."

The day rolled on as days will. Lunchtime came and Wesley worried about anyone seeing his ruined sandwich. He figured he could get by until he went home. He'd just ignore the growling in his stomach. He shoved the messy bag into the trash.

Callie nudged Cole and they watched Wes hide the bag. "Oh," he thought, "Wesley, can you help us eat our lunches? Mommie made us too much stuff."

Wes wasn't sure what to do. Father always said to take nothing; that pride goes before destruction, but Father wasn't here and Wes wanted that sandwich. He didn't quite know what destruction meant anyway. The sandwiches and chips and cookies looked so good. Father didn't allow food like this at home. "Yes, please," he smiled.

Naptime came and all the children had to lie down on little mats they had brought with towels to cover up. Mrs. Harris reached into her closet and pulled out a rather battered blue Kinder mat. "Here, Wesley, use this one until you bring yours." She knew the little fella would use that mat all year long, as had his brother and sister before him.

As the class lay like little turtles, their heads popping up every few seconds, not a snore or a closed eye amongst them, Wesley smiled at Cole. "Want to see Leo?" he asked, wanting to share something precious.

"Sure," Cole grinned. He watched Wesley reach down deep in his pocket and pull out a ratty old worn lion. Cole thought of all the big beautiful stuffed animals that littered his and Callie's beds at home and wondered that Wesley could be holding this dirty little one in his hands so gently.

"This is Leo," Wesley whispered. "I had to leave Poppy, my bear, at home cause he is too big for my pocket." Cole reached out his hand and Wesley looked at him closely. Deciding that Cole would not hurt Leo, he handed him over carefully.

Cole petted Leo on the head top and said in a voice much like the teacher's, "Hello, Mr. Leo. Are you gonna be in our class? We'll have to get a really small chair for you." Cole was so happy to see Wesley giggle.

Wesley thought carefully, then said shyly, "Can I feel your hair? There are lots of curls."

"Sure," Cole laughed. "I got twisty twirly curly hair my Mommie says."

Wes reached his hand over and touched Cole's curls. He pulled one and watched it bounce back. "You can put your finger in it," he laughed, doing just that.

"You have spooky eyes," Cole whispered. Wes immediately snapped his eyes shut. "No, no, Wesley. They are really good eyes. They look kinda like ummm....."he tried to think of what they reminded him of, "Yeah, like when it's raining real hard and you stare out the window at the tin roof on the barn. They be's all silver and pretty. I like them a lot."

The eyelashes crept open. "Yeah?"

Yeah, lotsly and lotsly. I promise."

12:30 came so quickly that Wesley hadn't had time to be scared and Cole hadn't had time to miss his puppy, Snap. The three children had loved every minute of the day and they looked forward to tomorrow. Difference was that Callie and Cole would go home to happy questions about their day, hugs and kisses from their parents, while Wes would just go home, stay out of the way and wait for tomorrow.

Mrs. Harris walked her line out to the car/bus circle. There was one bus that carried all the Kindergarteners home at 12:30. The older children didn't leave until 2:00. She had her little students in two lines, cars/walkers and bus riders.

Cole saw his dad standing by the truck just as he'd promised. "There's Daddy, Callie. Bye, Wesley. See you tomorrow," Cole called as he started off toward the car circle. Callie waved to her new friend.

"Bye, Cole. By, Callie," Wes called, waving his hand.

Wes looked for Mercy. He wasn't supposed to go home without Mercy. Father had said not to come home without Mercy. "Teacher, Teacher," he said, pulling on her skirt.

"Time to go home, Wesley," she answered, nudging him toward the bus.

"No! No! I can't go home without Mercy. Father said. I can't go home without Mercy."

"Oh, Lord," Mrs. Harris sighed. She'd forgotten this part. It all came back now. Mercy hadn't been able to go home without Karl either. The little girl had been terrified of getting on the bus without her brother and Mrs. Harris had always been afraid to send a six year old home alone when she didn't know what was waiting there.

"Okay, okay, Wesley. Don't be upset. We can wait in the classroom until Mercy comes to the bus."

"I need to wait here, Teacher. I can't see when Mercy comes." The note of panic was strong in the little boy's voice.

Cole was watching out the truck window. "Daddy, I need to help Wesley. Somethin's wrong with Wesley." He jerked on the door handle to get out.

"Hold on, son. Let me pull out of the traffic line." Albert parked in a parking lot slot and, taking both children by the hand, crossed to the bus stop. "Can we help? Cole's worried about this little fella."

Wesley's panicked silver eyes met both pairs of blue. He felt his new friends grab for his hands like they had done when he first stood in the classroom doorway. He felt the panic ebb away. Cole was here. Callie was here.

After Mrs. Harris explained what the problem was and said that, starting tomorrow, after talking to Mercy, Wesley would wait in the classroom, Albert said they'd be glad to wait with Wesley today until his sister came out. He had seen the look in Callie's eyes and heard the tone in Cole's voice.

"Why not go over to the playground while I visit with Mrs. Harris for a minute, okay? I can see you just fine from here," Albert suggested. He watched the three walk off toward the swings hand in hand.

"Thank you, Mr. Hewett," Mrs. Harris said quietly. "The Straihan boy needs friends like your children. He comes from a much different life than yours."

"Straihan?" Albert questioned. "That would be the Karl Straihan of the Church of the Redemptive Suffering out on Elmore Road?"

"That's him. Wesley seems to be a very sweet likable boy. I know your children took to him right off today."

He could tell she wanted to say more, but was bound by rules. He knew a few things about Karl Straihan, had heard a few more rather disturbing tales about his so-called church and the even more disturbing rumors about his wife. He wasn't sure he wanted his children to be friends with one of the Straihan kids, but how do you explain that to children who've never met a stranger and have never known anything except love and acceptance. He couldn't very well teach them compassion and tolerance if he didn't allow them to like whomever they chose.

The children played on the swings and the slide until 1:45 when the older students started lining up for the trip home. Wesley saw Mercy come out, a panicked look on her face. He waved and saw her relax.

"I will go home with my sister now," he said. "I liked school very much. See you tomorrow, Cole. Bye, Callie." He let their hands go and, as he ran toward Mercy, his arms tight to his sides. Albert saw his two children slide their fingers together and watch their new friend leave.

"He seems to be a nice young man," Albert said softly.

"He is my best friend, Dad. I like Wesley. Tomorrow I need to bring more lunch, 'pecially chips. Wesley never had chips before," Cole said.

"Me too, Daddy," Callie said, "I like Wesley too. He draws good and likes the singing."

Albert sighed. This was just the first day of Kindergarten and already his children were making choices without him. He could sense that, for better or worse, Wesley Straihan was part of their lives now.

Karl Jr. had had a bad first day of fifth grade. The fifth grade teacher was a man, Mr. Grable, and Mr. Grable had already taken Karl out in the hall to tell him that he didn't take any guff off eleven year old big mouths. The teacher had given him one day to shape up. He had a big wooden paddle lying on his desk and Karl had already figured out that he was gonna get his butt beat before long. When he got home, he was hell bent to beat up on something or someone.

"You have a big day, spazmo?" he said to Wes as he walked into their bedroom. "Did ya cry or piss your pants?" Wes had changed out of his 'good' clothes so he could wear them again tomorrow and was sitting on his blanket holding Poppy and Leo. He and Leo were telling Poppy all about school and mostly all about his new best friend, Cole and his sissy, Callie. He ignored his brother.

"I'm talkin' to you, retard." Karl's frustration level peaked. He grabbed the faded gold lion out of Wesley's hand and ripped its tail off.

"Nooooo, Please, No," Wesley cried. "Please, Karl. Don't hurt Leo."

In a momentary flashback, Karl remembered the feeling of helplessness he had when Father had taken the little stuffed dog away that Mother had given him because he had forgotten to burn the garbage. But then he remembered the rage he'd felt when Father had burned the small dog along with the garbage to 'teach him a lesson'.

Suddenly, he threw the little stuffed lion out the open window. "Aw, quit your belly achin', you big baby. You ain't worth my time." He threw the torn off tail down on the floor and ground it under his heel before he stomped out.

Wes scrambled off his blanket and picked up the dirty piece of gold cloth.

Climbing out the window, he saw little Leo lying in the dirt. "Oh, Leo," he sobbed. He stuffed Poppy under his t-shirt and ran down the stairs.

When Mercy found him later, Wes had gotten some black thread and a needle and was trying, through his tears, to sew Leo's tail back on. She didn't ask what had happened. What was the use of that?

"Here, Wesley, let me do that," she soothed. "I'll make him good as new. You'll see. Now, you tell me about school today. Who were your new friends I saw you with on the playground?" She kept chattering away until he stopped crying and his eyes cleared of their pain and Leo looked almost as good as new ... almost.

"Let's go down and find some dinner and then we'll make us some really good sandwiches for lunch tomorrow. I don't know about you, but my tomato sandwich squished before lunchtime today." She grinned and made him smile with her funny face.

"Cole and Callie gave me some of their lunches," he told her. "We are best friends in the whole wide world."

So, as small a thing as holding out two little hands and one lonely little boy grabbing hold would change many lives and it started without rippling the wing feathers of the hawk.

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