‘He’ll be on the plane right now,’ Scott said.
Adam looked out the window. ‘Do you think we should have gone to see him leave?’
‘He didn’t want us to.’
‘Yeah, but anyway?’
Scott shook his head. ‘I keep expecting him to show up, you know?’ Scott looked around the common room. Posters and street signs and ragged furniture, a few other seventh formers dissecting the Ball, comradely chatter. They all avoided Scott and Adam. Maybe they didn’t know what to say either.
‘So now what do we do?’ Adam asked.
‘God, I don’t know. What do you reckon?’
‘We’ve got the semi-final this week.’
‘And no Rich.’
‘We’ll do all right.’
‘I suppose we’ll adjust.’
Adam looked at Scott. ‘I thought we already had.’
There was an explosion of movement by the doorway. James was there, out of uniform, his face flushed. ‘Shane. Any of you seen Shane yet today?’
Scott shook his head. ‘No, no sign. What’s up?’
‘Need to find that son of a bitch,’ James said, already leaving the room.
Scott and Adam exchanged glances and rose, following them outside. James, Phil and Kane were talking intently, their faces hard and angry, glancing left and right. Scott wandered over. ‘Phil, what’s up?’
Adam looked up into the sky. It had been clear that morning, but it was clouding over fast.
Phil saw Scott, pointed at him, almost afraid of his own voice. ‘Shit, Scott, why didn’t you look after her?’
‘What are you talking about? What happened?’
Phil shook his head. ‘Oh, shit, Scotty.’
Adam closed his eyes. He heard Kane cry out. ‘There he is!’ He looked again. That distinctive figure, Shane from around the corner, smiling, shades, swagger, as if nothing was wrong. James sprinting towards him, Phil and Kane following, and Scott was going too, running over the concrete, surrounding him. Shane penned in between the kiln and the drinking fountain. James was in his face, pushing him back. Shane’s head was cocked, not taking it seriously, laughing, waving them away.
Somehow Shane was bent towards the ground. Kane and Phil restrained him. James was punching him, shouting something. His shades toppled from his face. And somehow he was up again, breaking free, he was so strong, he kicked James back, he was even breaking free of Kane, punching Phil, they were falling back and he turned and he was running, had Adam ever seen him run before? Towards Scott. He ran towards Scott, and his face was white and simple, and Adam saw Scott’s hand pick up a short plank from the pile by the kiln and lift it up.
Shane came right at him as he swung it.
Something like a bat, just a plank of wood, Scott stepped backward, the crack was like a gunshot, Shane slumped down. Everyone was standing back now. Shane slumped down. Scott was holding the plank.
Then he put it down. Adam was watching.
Adam got off the bus across from the playground and started up the hill. He felt unwell. His bag was heavy. The earth was below him, the sky was above.
Shane had gone to the hospital. Scott and James and Kane and Phil had gone to the Principal’s office. There had been a police car outside the school. Richard would be high over the ocean in the plane, maybe with a window seat, looking down, flying over the weather.
No-one would be home yet, it would just be him when he got there. That was maybe best. The trouble with people was they changed you around and forced you to adjust. He reached his driveway, bushes alongside. The house was physics and brown shading, deepened and dulled by the overcast sky. Adam walked around the side to get the hidden key. He plucked it from its little nail under the guttering and turned back. Dennis was there and Adam didn’t even blink.
Dennis was unshaven and his eyes were dark. He was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and carrying a small satchel. He said ‘Hey.’
His face was almost readable, shapes of words like writing smeared in water.
‘Well?’ Adam asked.
His eyes were crescents. His face was lit wrongly, all the colour washing out, corners disappearing.
Adam asked, ‘What are you going to do now? What are you going to do?’
Dennis tilted his head and dropped his gaze. He could move his body so well it was mesmerising, distracting, and no one had noticed how bad he was at moving in his head. It was all about headshifts in the end. That was all life was when you got up close. Not flying, not breaking free, just adjusting to the situation, an endless process of shifting, moving, turning, finding balance.
Adam spun about, the overcast sky like a ceiling. A part of him wanted to break something. The clouds flew across the sky and Richard was up in that, somewhere. A drop hit his cheek. Adam took a few steps, then stopped, again. He turned to see if Dennis was coming and then, satisfied, he turned back.
Dennis followed him inside, out of the developing rain.