[This post is from Thomas Merlin Ambrose’s point of view.]
I chewed on the inside of my lip, still staring at the words carved into the stone. I could no longer remember who’d done the carving, only that it seemed all at once too much and not enough to honor and remember my parents. Of course, they weren’t under that stone. I knew that now.
In some ways, I think I’d always known. For as visible as their friends’ grief had been back then—genuine in all cases, in fact—there had been something different between some of their grief and the grief of others. Looking back, I could pick out who’d known, who my parents had recruited into their ruse, into their plan to slip away.
I even understand why they didn’t tell me, why they didn’t tell me the truth about what was happening—why I had to figure it out for myself.
That didn’t stop the ache, though. It didn’t stop the need, the wish that they were here now so I could ask them all the questions I had, the ones I was trying to get the answers to from their journals.
They saw so much, but did they write all of it down? I’m sure they didn’t. If they had, there would be things in these journals that aren’t there—and I know they’re not there because I’ve looked.
Carolyn slid an arm around me, hugging me gently—clearly trying not to hurt me any more than I was already hurt. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I said. “And no. I don’t know what to do. I keep thinking that they would.”
“They didn’t always,” she murmured. “But they faked it really well. Almost everyone thought that they had it all together but…”
She smiled. “Exactly. Some of us knew. The rest didn’t, and it was safer that way.”
“Safer,” I echoed softly. “And kinder.”
“In a lot of ways, yes.”
I closed my eyes, head dipping toward my chest. She drew me toward her and I leaned against her, ignoring the ribbons of fire that shot through my arm and shoulder.
“I want to find them, Aunt Caro,” I whispered.
“Then I’m sure you will,” she whispered back. “You can do anything you set your mind to, Lin. Anything.”
“Even finding people who might not want to be found?”
“I think they always knew that you’d eventually come looking,” she said. “Once you figured it out or we told you.”
“Whichever came first?”
She smiled sadly, nodding. “Yeah. There were moments when I know I wanted to tell you.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Because it wasn’t the right time. Not yet.”
I just nodded, leaning against her, staring at the stone. Somehow, I’d find them. I just wasn’t sure how.
But I would, no matter what it took.