There are three of them. No, four.
They step off the Amtrak train into the snowy dusk, children first and adults after, and then they hesitate, clustered on the platform. Passengers behind them shove past, but the four—Blake, Gracie, Dad, Mama—just move a few more steps and stop again, look around. Their faces are an uneasy yellow in the overhead light from the station. Mama looks most anxious. She peers into the darkness under the awning where I stand, just twenty feet away, as if she knows instinctively that I am here, but no confirmation registers on her face. I am still invisible in the...
I take a deep breath, hold it, and force myself to step out from under the awning into the yellow light. Walk toward them. Mama sees me, and her mittened hand clutches her coat where it opens at her neck. As I approach, I can see her eyes shining above deep gray semicircles, and I can tell she’s not sure—I’m not seven anymore. Her lips part and I imagine she gasps a bit. Then Dad, Blake, and finally Gracie, the replacement child, stare with doubting eyes, taking me in.
I open my mouth to say something, but I don’t know what to say. It’s almost like the cold sweat in the small of my...
Dad comes in for a group hug, and we are suddenly stepping on each other’s feet, not sure where to put our heads in the crowded space. I turn my face outward and see Blake watching. We hold each other’s gaze for several seconds, until my eyes cross from staring, and I think, for a moment, that he looks a little bit like this yellow dog I used to see hanging around the group home. He really does. I close my eyes.
The woman from CPS gently interrupts, lays a hand on my coat sleeve. I pull away from my parents. “Ethan,” she says, “I’m sorry to intrude. It seems obvious, but I...