Mike got out of the car first after Ms. Reynolds pulled up in front of the Sheriff’s station, and he went around to Luke’s door to help his brother out. Luke could walk on his prosthetic leg but it was more comfortable for him when riding in a car to ride without his artificial leg strapped on. So, it took a moment for Luke to get his leg strapped on but Mike waited patiently, his face expressionless.
It killed him that his brother had lost his leg after all they had been through, and he regretted not having killed his uncle before things had come so dire. If he had acted sooner, Luke would still have his leg. Of course, Luke didn’t blame him but Mike couldn’t help but feel responsible. He was the eldest and he should have looked after his brothers better than he had. Though all of them blamed the town members for not having notified the authorities that they had gone missing because if they had, they likely would have been found. And even if not, Mike and his brothers at least would have known that their family gave two shits about them. But it was pretty clear that none of them had, and so none of them expected anything different now.
Hank met the boys on the sidewalk when they were all out of the car, with a smile on his face. “Welcome home, boys.” Though the boys were a year older, with Mike now fourteen, Luke–eleven, and Wade–nine, none of them looked much larger than they had a year ago. Mike merely nodded in response, and Luke and Wade said nothing. Of course, Wade didn’t speak at all but he didn’t sign anything either. Luke just scowled as he normally did, none of his anger lessened any. In fact, he was even angrier after having lost his leg and learned that no one had reported them missing.
Hank frowned at their reaction but Ms. Reynold’s spoke, “I’m Ms. Reynolds. The real Ms. Reynolds. The authorities are still looking for the impersonator who came here six years ago. I will be the social worker who comes here once a week to check on the boys.” Hank nodded and shook the woman’s hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Ma’am. Hank Olsen.”
Hank turned back to the boys. “The entire town is in the town hall. We wanted to all welcome you home together, and we prepared a nice luncheon to celebrate. Jarrel wanted it to be a surprise but the rest of us were concerned that it might startle you if we all suddenly shouted surprise. I know how skittish you all were the last we saw you, and we didn’t know if that had changed or not.”
Luke finally spoke in an angry tone, “Yeah, well if any of you mother fuckers might have come visited us over the past year, you might have known what we were like now.”
Aberly, having come out of the town hall and having overheard, spoke, “Some of wanted to visit with you boys but the State wouldn’t allow it. They felt that you needed some distance from the town members while you were healing and going through your therapy. They wouldn’t even let Doc visit. So, all we had was second-hand reports from social services on how you boys were doing.”
Aberly then met Luke’s eye. “I’m sorry you lost your leg, Luke. And I sorely regret that I hadn’t gone against the other town members when you had gone missing. I was negligent. It won’t happen again. I know that’s no consolation in light of what you boys went through and what you lost, but I just want you to know that I know I am to blame for what happened to you boys, along with everyone else in this town. So, know that though it won’t fix the wrong I did you, I will do better in watching over you boys this time around.”
Luke just glared at Aberly. “Yeah, well. I don’t forgive you, or any of you bastards. I hate you all but this is the only home we got. It was come back here and live with the lot of you, or be fostered out and separated from my brothers.”
Ms. Reynolds frowned but tried to explain, “As you can see Luke still has quite a bit of anger.”
Aberly interrupted. “As he should. All of these boys have the right to be damn angry at us. We’re supposed to be family, and though we did search for the boys ourselves, we didn’t go further in regards to finding them. We made up lame excuses, and because of it, these boys have suffered terribly. I’d be angry too if it had been me.”
Hank nodded in agreement. Though he hadn’t been in town when the boys had disappeared, that didn’t change the fact that the boys had a right to be angry at the town members.
Ms. Reynolds conceded, “Well, yes. I suppose you are right. Though I hope over time that the strained relationships between the boys and their family can be mended.”
Jarrel suddenly showed up with a smile, having grown impatient waiting inside the town hall, and he walked right over to the boys, ignoring the social worker. Not that he hadn’t seen her. He had, and he had paused a moment evaluating her but then had gone over to the boys as he had intended. “Hi boys!” Jarrel said with a huge smile. “I sure did miss you guys over the past year. I never got to give you that ride on my scooter that I promised, so if you still want that, we can do that later. Right now, we got a nice lunch set up for you boys to welcome you home. I didn’t know what your favorite food was but I know that I love pizza. So, I made a whole bunch of pizzas; different kinds. We got them in warmers so that they don’t get cold. Do you like pizza?”
Luke smiled a little, as Jarrel was one person he didn’t hate because he hadn’t been responsible for what had happened, nor had the sheriff. All three boys were aware of that but everyone else had given up on them. “Yeah, we like pizza.”
Jarrel clapped his hands. “Great! Then let’s go eat some. Let the adults talk out here if they want but that’s boring, and there’s pizza to be eaten.” Mike nodded in agreement to all of that, so the boys followed Jarrel toward the town hall, leaving the Sheriff, Aberly and Ms. Reynolds to discuss whatever they were going to discuss.”