Paign wished he could do something—anything—to encourage Anders, but felt just as helpless. So, he busied himself kicking dirt and, consequently, he didn’t see that when Anders went to Danielle to bid her goodbye, she leaned over and kissed him gently on the cheek. Anders walked, like a sailor in rough seas, back to where Paign’s cloud of dirt floated. His cheeks were flushed.
“Did she say anything to you?” Paign asked his cousin.
After waiting for more and not getting it, Paign followed up with, “Well? What did she say?”
“I’m not telling you!” he said, then slugged Paign halfheartedly. But from the enormous smile on his face, Paign couldn’t muster enough of a grudge to slug him back. He burst out laughing, which set Anders laughing, too.
The last goodbye was between Danielle and Freida. The girls held each other tight, wishing they could stay together but knowing that vast distances and ages separated them.
“Take good care of Tiny, will you?” Danielle said.
Freida nodded her head as tears welled up in her eyes.
“I’ll remember you always,” Danielle added.
“And me, you,” Freida choked out. “But somehow I think we’ll see each other again. Don’t you?”
This time, it was Danielle who nodded her head, with tears in her eyes. She gave Freida another fierce hug, wiped her eyes and joined her parents, who already held hands with Ercen and Kimar.
Danielle gave a final wave to her friends before taking Kimar’s open hand, and they were gone.
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