The hallways started to clear. Soon it was just Hannah. And Curt. She hadn’t noticed him at first, but Curt had never left. He glared across the empty corridor at her. What passed as a smoldering gaze before now seemed alarming. She looked around her but they were alone. Curt grabbed his book bag and walked straight toward her. As he got closer, Hannah abandoned the search for her notebook. She stuffed the papers falling out of her locker back in and slammed the door shut. Curt now stood next to her. She jumped backward, her back pressing into the locks.
“You think God struck my father dead, don’t you?” he asked.
“What?” she asked in a faint voice, flattening herself against the lockers.
“That’s what your brother wrote.” Curt’s eyes became little more than slits.
“My brother? But I didn’t say-”
“But you think it. Maybe you’re too afraid to say it, but that’s what you think.” He took a step closer to her. “Be honest. You think my father’s in hell now, don’t you?”
“I don’t know,” she stammered back.
“Do you even know what kind of man my father was?” The anger in his voice began to crack. “Do you know how kind he was? How he helped in soup kitchens and gave to charity? How he let other people stay at our house when they were in need?”
A tremor of pain quivered through Curt’s expression. Hannah swallowed hard.
“Do you know what an awesome father he was? How he encouraged me to be a good person and care about others? How he never tried to force me to be someone else? Who I was was always good enough for him. Does any of that even matter to you?”
Curt’s anger was quickly transforming into grief. Hannah stared into his eyes, waiting for the dam to break.
“Did you know he went out with me in the middle of the night during every meteor shower since I was a little kid? Because he knew I was interested in that. And he’d take me out, a few hours before dawn, to lie on the ground waiting for a flash across the sky. And now the eta Aquariids are going to peak tomorrow night, but he’s not going to be there with me? It’s just going to be me out there alone…”
In a sudden, instinctive move, Hannah embraced Curt, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him tight. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “I’m so sorry.”
As soon as her arms encircled him, Curt bent down and began sobbing. His cries came out in heaves. Hannah gently pulled his head to her chest, continuing to say, “I’m so sorry” in hushed whispers. They remained like that, alone in the hallway, Curt sobbing in Hannah’s arms, Hannah massaging his back and whispering a prayer for him.
“Hey, so are you coming or what?” a female voice asked from behind.
The sudden reappearance of Jane broke the spell. Curt pulled away from Hannah, his eyes full of confusion as he continued to stare at her. Jane stood frozen in the hallway— and perhaps for the first time in her life—truly speechless. After another moment of the three standing off from one another, Curt grabbed his backpack and rushed off without another word. Hannah watched him leave until he disappeared around the corner.
“Uh, what was that all about?” Jane asked, looking at Hannah from the corners of her eyes.
“I don’t know,” Hannah murmured. “I don’t know.”
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