“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked, knocking on Hazel’s closed bedroom door. Since that Garrett guy left, she’d locked herself away in her bedroom.

I was still trying to piece everything together, but listening to Hazel sob on the other side of her door was fucking sad as hell. The past few days, her life seemed to be in complete turmoil, and I hadn’t a damn clue how to help her.

But if she needed someone to listen, I was all ears.

“I’m fine,” she sniffled. Her sniffles were enough reason for me to know she was lying. “I just need to get some sleep.”

I didn’t know her well enough to push her, but man, did I want to. I wanted to make sure she was all right and give her anything she could’ve needed to feel a tad bit better, but I had a feeling she wasn’t going to leave that room anytime soon. So I gave her the only words I could think of.

“I would’ve done the same if it were my mom,” I offered up. “I know whatever your plan was didn’t go as expected, but I would’ve done the same thing. Think of it this way—as long as your mother is locked up, Charlie can’t get to her, and she can’t get into more trouble. It’s a chance for her to get a restart.”

I remembered when my parents used to go MIA, I’d hope that the cops would pick them up. That way, they’d have a place to sleep that night, and they couldn’t get into more trouble.

“Haze,” I sighed with my hands pressed against the wooden door, “if you need anything, I’m next door.”

A soft thank-you was all I heard before I walked away to give her some space to think and reflect. I had a feeling she’d be up all night, thinking and reflecting too much.

I would’ve done the same thing.

When the door opened, I was surprised to see a puffy-eyed Hazel looking my way. I’d been convinced she wasn’t going to come out until morning. “You know what would help take my mind off everything?”

“What’s that?”

“If we made music together. I just need a distraction, and I think writing songs with you could help.”

“Of course. We can hang out in the living room and start messing around with some stuff I’ve been working on—and failing at. I’ll go grab my guitar and some pens and paper, and I’ll meet you there.”

“Okay, sounds good.”

I began to walk away—and froze as I felt two arms wrap around me from behind. I looked over my shoulder to see Hazel holding on for dear life, and I raised an eyebrow.

“Sorry,” she murmured, still holding on to me. “I just needed something to hold on to for a second.”

“Go ahead.” I turned to face her and pulled her in for a tight hug. “Hold on for two.”

We stayed up well past two in the morning with one another, making lyrics that sometimes worked and other times didn’t. Hazel asked me questions that were hard on my soul to answer—I wasn’t one to dig deep with my emotions—but I tried my best to do it for her, because if anyone was having a shitty day, it was Hazel. She didn’t need me being a hard-ass to her while she was trying to help me.

“What was the hardest day of your life?” she asked me, lying on the couch as I sat in front of her with a notebook in my hands.

“That’s an easy one. When my parents walked out on me.”

She tilted her head and stared at me with the most genuine eyes. “Tell me about it.”

I swallowed hard. It was the worst day of my life, and I didn’t like talking about it. Even though it had happened almost fourteen years ago, it still felt like yesterday. But again, for her, I’d try. “They said they were going out for food and I was old enough to stay home alone for a while. So I hung out all day, waiting for them to come home. When the morning came, I started getting nervous, but I still waited, because no matter what, they always came home.” I scratched at my chin and cleared my throat. “Except this time, they didn’t. I sat in that house alone for forty-eight hours before Big Paw and Grams came over and found me. I remember Grams falling apart and crying. They took me in right away, and my parents never came back.”

“You were just left waiting alone? That had to be horrifying.”

“It was. It’s probably the reason I hate being alone, but oddly enough, I push people away so I am forced to be alone.”

“Why do you push people away?”

“Because then they can’t leave me.”

She frowned, and damn, it broke my heart. “I’m sorry that happened to you, Ian. But you’ve done a pretty good job growing up.”

I snickered. “I’m an asshole.”

“Only on the surface. Inside, I think you’re still that hurt little boy who’s trying his best to survive.”

Now it was my turn to frown as I tapped my pen against the notebook. “Hurt little boy . . . hurt little boy . . . like a lost boy. That’s what I’ve felt like my whole life. Lost.”

Hazel smiled, realizing that inspiration was coming to me. “I’d love to hear that song.”

So I began writing it. It was hard, it was painful, and it was raw, but the whole time I wrote it, Hazel was right there, cheering me on and holding my hand through the emotions that were overtaking me.