The weather had turned finally. Winter had held on through the middle of May, but now, like an errant favorite uncle you forgave the moment he showed up, spring sunshine promised barbecues and fireflies and long days in the lake, and they could feel summer shimmering just in front of them. The warm wind meant a line at Se?or Scoops. How this place stayed in business through the long winter Penn did not know. The boys went and begged everyone around them, “Are you using that chair?” in order to stake out space enough for all of them in the courtyard. Cherry blossoms blew against their ice cream cones and stuck. The whole world smelled of sunshine and soil and sugar. Soft serve was as effective a numbing agent as Rosie knew.

She considered her husband. “That was very brave back there.”

“Cowering in fear?”

“That’s not what you did. You chose me. You chose us.”

“I wanted there to be blood.”

“I know.”

“His. But I’d have settled for mine.”

“I know.”

“Instead I did nothing.”

“Which was everything.” Rosie licked at the tendrils sprouting along her cone. “Thank you.”

“Anytime,” said Penn.

A stranger from whom they’d snagged a chair winked at him. “Beautiful family.”


“Lotta boys.”

“Oh yeah.”

“She must feel pretty outgunned.” Penn looked puzzled so the stranger nodded at Poppy.

“Her and me both,” said Penn.


On the last night of school, Rosie was at work, and Penn was doing bedtime. Grumwald’s friends were over, helping him pack. Grumwald was leaving his parents’ house to go make his way in the world. It seemed silly to the king and queen that he should do so. Grumwald didn’t need to earn any money, for the castle was his to live in as long as he liked. He didn’t need a job, for prince was job enough already. He didn’t need a way in the world. He needed a way to stay out of the world, to stay home, to stay put. But Grumwald had secrets which meant he had to go. And it was time.

“How will you learn to be king if you go?” Grumwald’s father and mother pled.

“How will I learn to be king if I stay? I have to go.”

“Go where?” his parents moaned.


“But if you don’t have anywhere specific you need to be, why can’t you just be here?”

“Here is the only where that’s not away,” Grumwald explained. “Away is anywhere that is not here. So that’s where I must be.”

Even though they were the queen and king, his parents were confounded, as parents of young people—not too young, Penn emphasized—are meant to be. They were worried about him being anywhere but there, Away as he called it. They could not find Away on any map, though they called in their atlas maker and made him do a thorough search. Grumwald was a little worried too, truth be told, but he had to go. He also knew some things his parents did not, and these things gave him strength. He knew he had infinite stories to see him through, words without end to light his way, to tell him out of any danger, to heal all wounds and mend all hurts, to take any unsavory ending and make it not an end at all but just a way station on the way away. And he had Princess Stephanie for when a princess was called for, as they sometimes are. Between them, they had a prince and a princess, a storyteller and a fairy wrangler, a star lighter and a secret keeper, so Grumwald felt his way was, if not firmly paved, at least densely pebbled, and that was as good a start as one could wish for.

At the hospital, when the call came in, Rosie was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the break room (peanut butter being allowed in the hospital where there were, among other things, any number of ways to effectively treat anaphylactic shock). Anna Gravitz, the nurse who’d answered the phone, put her head and nothing else in the door, always a bad sign because if it weren’t about to be a total shit storm, Anna would have put her whole self in, like at the end of the Hokey Pokey, and told Rosie all about the French featherweight lifting champion who had been her pen pal in fifth grade, come to visit in January, and never left. Instead she said, “Heads up. GSW on her way in from campus. Security found her, not Madison PD. She was in the yard back behind some fraternity party. Been down more than an hour they think. Wilson says you’re up.”

Rosie sighed and swallowed the rest of her sandwich. It had been a pleasant four minutes of middle-of-the-night dinner break. The ones who came in from campus were always a whole different ball game. For one, they often had complicating factors—drugs or alcohol in their systems, or they hadn’t slept for a week writing a paper they’d had all semester to work on but had only just started, or they hadn’t eaten for a week in order to fit into some dress for a sorority formal. For another, asking them didn’t necessarily help you figure out what was going on. They lied habitually. They lied in case you were going to call their parents or tell their RA or get their adviser to put them on probation. They lied out of habit because they were so used to playing up the boring stories and down the libelous ones. But mostly they were different because they were accompanied by a circus. An injury to a field hockey player was likely to occasion all the players and coaches—from both teams—to set up camp in the emergency room. Weeping roommates and frantic phone calls from parents went without saying. Rival lovers, often only just learning of each other’s existence, sometimes came a-wooing as well. Like Penn before them, no one could ever be convinced to leave, to wait at home, that there was nothing they could do here and they were very in the way. Staying equaled fidelity and faith, true friendship and true love. Leaving betrayed perfidy and doubt, wavering fear, which, to the college-aged mind, had no place in a hospital. Had they asked the adults in the room, the wounded worriers ten years their senior who waited for news of aged parents or broken kids, they’d have gotten this advice: if you get the chance to leave, take it. But the college students never asked anyone’s advice.