Bear, Otter, & the Kid 03 - The Art of Breathing (61 page)

“Can I help you?” I ask, trying not to show this little girl that I’m pretty much a fucking lunatic.

“Slow down, slow down,” Otter says into the phone. “Say that again, Megan.”

“Man,” the little girl on the porch says. “He sure wasn’t kidding. The color of this house is like an abomination against Mother Nature.”

A buzzing sound starts in my ears. “Who wasn’t kidding?” I ask her.

She rolls her eyes. There’s something so familiar about it that I take a step back. “Tyson,” she says. “You must be Bear. Derrick.”

“Wait,” Otter says. His voice sounds rough, like he’s having trouble speaking. “What?”

“How do you know my name?” I ask the girl.

She fidgets on the porch. Looks away. Back at me, then away again. “Ty said if I ever needed help, I could find him here.”

“He’s on a trip,” I tell her. “He’ll be back this afternoon.”

“You’re shorter than I thought you’d be,” she says. “How disappointing to know that’s what I’ve got ahead of me.” She takes a deep breath. It comes out shaky.

“I don’t…,” Otter says. “What do you mean hidden behind the other one?”

And it clicks into place. “Izzie?” I whisper.

She nods. “Ty said to find him if I needed help.” She sniffs, and I can tell she’s trying to keep it together but it’s a losing battle. “And I need help.”

“Are you sure?” Otter says from behind me. “How could they never see that…? I don’t… there’s… two… oh
fuck
.”

“What happened?” I manage to say to Izzie.

A tear spills over her cheek. Just one. She looks up at me, and even before she says it, I know. Somehow, I know. And in the darkest corners of my heart, I feel relief. Pure, white relief. “She’s dead,” Isabelle McKenna says. “Mom. She’s dead and I have nowhere else to go and Ty said if I needed help to find him and I need help! I need help so
bad
.” Her chest hitches and I fall to my knees, and for the first time in my life, my little sister launches herself into my arms. The weight of her reminds me so much of Ty that a lump forms in my throat. She sobs bitterly against my chest. The blood roars in my ears.

“Twins,” Otter says into the phone. “Jesus Christ. We’re having
twins
?”

Yeah, the only thing I’m sure of right now is that I’m about to fucking freak.

 

Author’s Note

 

 

To the readers of this funny little family of mine:

You’ve watched them as they’ve grown.

You’ve watched them as they’ve loved.

You’ve watched them as they’ve lost.

You’ve watched them as they’ve carved out their own little place in the world and were able to stand tall and fight for what they deserved.

It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes it’s been downright unfair.

But that’s life, I think. And what we learn from that will always help to shape who we are. The good times and the bad.

There’s one more story to tell. One last time we’ll return to Seafare, Oregon. To Bear, Otter, and the Kid (though he’s not really a kid anymore, is he?), and we’ll see what we see. I don’t know when, but one day soon, I hope.

They’re not real, I know. Those three. The others. Creed. Anna and Mrs. Paquinn.

Except that they are. At least to me. I’ve known them for years. I know how they think. I know what they’re scared of. What they love. What makes them happy. It isn’t going to be easy shutting that door.

I’ve taken them this far, though, and I will see them to the end.

One more time, then. One more time before we say good-bye.

As always, thank you for taking them in as you have. I promise you their ending will be the one they deserve.

TJ

About the Author

When
TJ K
LUNE
was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn't think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder, wondering why he has to go to work as a claims examiner for an insurance company during the day when he could just stay home and write.

He lives with a neurotic cat in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. It’s hot there, but he doesn’t mind. He dreams about one day standing at Stonehenge, just so he can say he did.

TJ can be found on Facebook under TJ Klune.

His blog is tjklunebooks.blogspot.com.

You can email him at [email protected]

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