Regret tugs at me, but I ignore it. There are some things we can't change even if we want to.

Trish gets picked up by her parents, sister, and brother. After hearing Erin's story, Trish's mom had to take a tissue from her purse so her own makeup wouldn't run. After that, the entire family packed Erin up in their van. I think they might just adopt the silent, tattooed girl. Matt left right afterwards, when his big brother came to give him a lift.

Re-START is officially over. I guess it's time for me to figure out where to go next.

One thing is for sure-I need to get far away. This time Chicago is too close. I wasn't joking when I told Maggie I was going to Arizona. Problem is, I have exactly twelve dollars and sixty-three cents to my name. I can work odd jobs, construction day jobs if I can find them, until I can save up enough money to get me out of Illinois.

I swing my duffle over my shoulder, glad I have at least a few bucks to my name. I know of a cheap campground a few miles from here where I can stay a couple of nights while I figure out if there are any temporary jobs I can take to make some quick cash. I'll need at least a few hundred to get me a one-way bus ticket to Arizona.

"Hey, Caleb, wait up!"

I turn to find Lenny jogging to catch up with me. "Miss your bus?" I ask.

"Nah." He shrugs. "I didn't really have a bus to catch. I was thinking of, you know ... going with you," he says, as if it was something we'd already discussed and agreed to.

Umm ... I don't think so.

"No, you're not. Go find out where Trish lives and follow her to her house."

"Are you kidding? The girl hates me."

"Maybe that's because you didn't wipe your pubes off the toilet."

I keep walking.

Lenny doesn't get the hint, and I'm starting to think he's serious about coming with because he continues to follow me.

"Come on, Caleb. Have a heart. Think of us as Fred and Barney, Ben and Jerry, Thelma and Louise. You know you want to."

I stop walking and look right at Lenny. "Thelma and Louise died at the end of that chick flick."

"They died holding hands. Didn't it bring you to tears?"


"You still owe me a hug, remember?"

"No, I don't."

"So you're gonna leave me stranded here? What, afraid I'm gonna cramp your style?"

"I don't have a style, Lenny. Go home. You do have a home, don't you?" He doesn't answer. "You told Damon you were going home."

"I lied."

Shit. "If you haven't figured it out yet, I don't have a house to go to either. I'm going to a campground so I can at least have a place to do the four S's-shit, shower, shave, and sleep."


"There's nothing cool about it." I can tell Lenny's not letting up. He's like a damn stray dog that's following me. I glance at him. Normally he sports a cocky-ass expression, but not now. Now he looks worried, as if he's afraid I'm gonna ditch him and leave him alone.

I keep walking, feeling deja vu. Maggie followed me off campus and look where that got me.

Lenny walks beside me. I don't tell him to back off, because I think the guy is scared to be left alone.

"Thanks, Caleb," he says after a while.

"Just... don't piss me off," I tell him.

"I won't. I promise."

It takes us almost an hour to walk to the Happy Camper Campground. I register and pay the lady in the office for a camping spot that costs me seven dollars a day. It would've cost me twenty-two if I required a water spout, but I can just go to the community bathroom for that.

No matter how cheap this place is, I've got to find some quick cash. Once the Illinois summer is over, winter creeps in fast and furious. I'll freeze my ass off and die if I don't head for Arizona by then.

When it's dark and we've bought a couple of hot dogs at the little on-site store, the family at the site next to us gives us a few pieces of their wood and fire starters. Gotta love the generosity of campers.

After I've washed up in the Happy Camper Campgrounds community bathroom/shower area, I pull out a light blanket I bought when I was living at Rio's place.

"Here," I say, handing it to Lenny. "We can switch off days we use it."

"I'm fine," he responds.

I watch as Lenny rolls one of his shirts up to make a pillow, then pulls out a pair of sweats from his duffle and puts it over his face, making a circle in the middle where his mouth is.

"Why the hell are you wearing pants on your head?" I ask. "You look ridiculous."

"I'm not risking getting sunburned or mosquito bites on my face again. I've got an extra pair of boxers if you want to cover your face. They're not washed, but-"

"No thanks." Just the thought makes me want to puke.

Thank God we got assigned a grassy campsite. I spread the blanket on the ground. A sleeping bag would be great, but I'm happy to have my little spot of land for the night without having to worry about getting busted by the cops or bothered by other homeless people.

"Really, Lenny, why are you here?" I ask. "I mean seriously, man, what's your story?"

"I don't got a story," Lenny says, lifting his pants off his face. "You heard me the past four weeks tell all the sordid details. I got drunk, stole a car, and drove it into a lake. End of story."

He turns his back to me and faces the opposite direction.

I stare up at the sky, the stars and moon lighting up the endless universe. Wherever Maggie is, whether she's in Paradise or in Spain, she'll be looking up at the same moon and same stars.

Will she ever think about me? Will she remember the night we spent in the castle or last night when we slept in each other's arms? Or will she only remember the times we argued and tried to push each other away, because it was easier than admitting or accepting what was really happening between us?

Damn. I better get a grip and forget about Maggie Armstrong. This is my life-here on this little seven-dollar rented piece of land ... I look over at Lenny ... and it doesn't seem like my lot in life is gonna get better anytime soon.

The biggest torture right now is knowing I won't sleep much. When it's all quiet and I'm just lying down at night, that's when my mind wanders to things I have no right thinking about.

"It was my mom's boyfriend's car," Lenny says, his voice cutting through the silence. He'd been so quiet the past hour I thought he was sleeping. I guess I should've known better, since he wasn't snoring. "He packed up and left her five years ago and I thought he was gone for good. I can't believe she took him back. Want to know what he did?"

"You don't have to tell me." I'm not one to pry into other people's business, 'cause I don't want them prying into mine.

I look over at Lenny, who's got his palms pressed to his eyes. I've never seen him so serious.

"When my mom wasn't home he used to touch me."

"Damn, Lenny. That's some serious shit."

"Tell me about it." Silence fills the air, and he doesn't say anything else for a while. "At first I didn't really get what was goin' on, as if my brain couldn't wrap around the reality of what was happening. I was only twelve when it started. By the time the asshole split, I just wanted to erase it from my mind and forget it ever happened. I didn't tell anyone. But when he showed up in March and my mom said she invited him to live with us, I freaked."

"Did you tell your mom about what he did to you?"

"Yeah, but she pretty much got pissed off and called me a liar. The first night the guy moved back in, I got drunk, stole his car, and drove it in the lake. My mom didn't even come to court. I hear she married the douche. Damon said I could join the Re-START program instead of serving probation time. I promised him I'd go back home and work things out with my mom, but that's never gonna happen. She chose to trust a boyfriend over her son."

"I don't even know what to say." Somehow Lenny's story makes me feel like all the stuff I've gone through is nothing.

"You don't need to say anything. I didn't tell you to get your pity."

"Does Damon know what the guy did to you?"


"You should've told him."

"Yeah, well you should've told your parents the truth about the night you didn't hit Maggie with your car, but you didn't have the guts."

A flash of regret makes me tense up. "You're right," I admit. "But I promised I'd keep quiet."

"Yeah, well, I made a promise to that scumbag that I'd never tell my mom what he did to me, but I didn't keep that promise. I don't have choices anymore, Caleb. I can't go back home. It'll be different for you."

"What are you saying?"

Lenny sits up. "I'm sayin' that you've got choices I don't have. Hell, just because your mom's got some prescription drug addiction and wants you to act all perfect and your old man's a pussy doesn't mean you have to give up on them." Lenny turns his back to me again. "If I were you-"

"Yeah, well you're not me," I cut in harshly.

I get up and walk around the campground, angry at myself and at Lenny and at Leah and at the world in general. I'm glad most people are sleeping and the place is quiet except for the crackling of fires and low whispers of the few campers still awake.

I circle the campground five times, thinking the entire time about what Lenny said. Indecision replaces my anger. As I start walking faster and faster, crazy thoughts run through my head. Soon I start running. The faster I run, the more my mind races with thoughts of what was and what could be. No, I can't, I tell myself. But what ifI did?

I get back to my little piece of rented land and see Lenny lying there by himself, sleeping on the ground. It's like looking at myself from far away, and it's pathetic-I'm pathetic. I have tons of regrets, stemming from my fear of being rejected by people I care about.

I don't want to be alone. I don't want my family to think I gave up on them. I also don't want Maggie to think I gave up on us. My mouth goes dry and my heart is racing as I realize what I'm going to go.

I'm going back to Paradise.

I'm going home.



om, it was no big deal."

"How can you say that, Maggie? It's the biggest deal."

I've been sitting at our kitchen table for the past twenty minutes not being able to eat any of the lunch set in front of us because I'm too busy getting lectured by my mother about the dangers of being on the Re-START trip with Caleb. Last night she hardly talked to me. Now she's giving me a lecture.

"I'm appalled that the program coordinator allowed it to happen."


"He could have hurt you."


"If you think the Caleb Becker you saw on that trip is the same boy who lived next door to us when you were growing up, guess again.


"How can I trust you to make the right choices when you're over four thousand miles away in Spain, Maggie? If you think it was okay to travel around the Midwest with that boy, what other irresponsible decisions are you going to make?" She picks up her fork and pokes her chicken breast. "To be honest, I hoped when he left, he was gone for good."

"He is gone for good, Mom," I tell her. "He didn't think he'd be welcome back in Paradise, and I told him he was wrong. I told him people would give him a chance and not judge him." I take my napkin off my lap and put it on the table. "I guess I was wrong."