Rules Are Rules: 43. Aftermath

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Mr. Marks had told me, All around you parents, relatives, and friends clutch their hearts in terror. The terror was right there on the faces of Nina and Eden. Nina buried her face in my shirt and I could feel her trembling. Eden couldn't even talk.

Rules Are Rules

43. Aftermath


Part 43

In the end, the two kidnappers were handcuffed and taken away. I was still shaky... I still had trouble standing. My arms had big, wicked bruises on them but somehow they didn't hurt. One of the policemen gave me ice packs, but they were hard to use. They were so cold, it hurt to hold them, so I had to keep switching hands, and they kept slipping out of place. The little girl and I were put in a police car and driven back to the elementary school, where Eden, Nina, and the girl's mother were waiting. Eden and Nina were scared to death, and the little girl and her mother were crying.

In that moment I saw what Mr. Marks was talking about when he said, All around you parents, relatives, and friends clutch their hearts in terror. The terror was right there on the faces of Nina and Eden. Nina buried her face in my shirt and I could feel her trembling. Eden couldn't even talk.

The police drove the three of us to Eden's house. It all made Mrs. Hensel very nervous. She gave us something to eat, and kept dropping things while I told her the story.

At first Nina was tucked in a ball on my lap. I hugged her and hugged her and rocked her in my arms, but after she'd eaten a little bit, she told the story all over again from her point of view.

Mrs. Hensel said, "Oh, my!" a dozen times, and her face kept going white. She quit holding things in her hands — it was the only way to keep from dropping them. Honestly, I was afraid she was going to faint.

Much to my relief, after an hour or so Eden and Nina seemed better.

Later, when I walked Nina home, she kept glancing over her shoulder, as if someone was following us. Of course, there was no one there.

Seeing her do that just broke my heart. I wanted to tell her not to worry, but how could I?

When we got to the Auburn's house, I had to tell the story to Mrs. Auburn. Cassie and Jerry weren't there. I felt awful for Nina and her mother.

Mrs. Auburn told me I was very brave, but all I could say to her was, "I'm sorry."

"Why are you sorry, Marcie?"

"I'm sorry Nina had to be there."

"That wasn't your fault."

"I could have left school early."

"If you had, who knows where that other little girl would be now?" The two of us were already crying. Nina, who was standing on a chair, looked from her mother to me and back again. Then she put her hand on her mother's shoulder and said, "Don't worry, Mom. It's alright."

Mrs. Auburn took us both in her arms and gave us a long, long hug. I didn't want to let go.

She invited me to dinner, but I had to get home to Mom. That meant telling the whole story again, and once more I saw in her face the fear and pain that Mr. Marks had told me about.

"Mom, I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't mean to do it. I didn't want to do it. I didn't think. I just saw him grab that little girl, and I started running..." tears were pouring down my face. "I don't mean to make your life so hard. I really don't. It's just..."

"Oh, honey," she said, and put her arms around me. "You're a very brave girl. It scares me sometimes — sometimes it scares me to death! — but I am so, so proud of you. I really am!" She hugged me until I stopped sobbing, and then she said, "Let me call your aunt and find out what to do about those bruises."

We ate together, and then she drew a hot bath for me with baking soda in it. It was very soothing, and I fell asleep in the tub for a while. When I woke up the water was getting cold, so I rinsed off and washed my hair. I took a good look at myself all over, and found some bruises on my legs, but they were nothing compared to the ones on my arms.

"Good thing the weather's cool," Mom observed. "You can wear long sleeves until the bruises fade."

Somehow it felt much less dramatic the next day. Still scary, still horrible, but I went to school without worrying about crying every five minutes.

Mom told me I could stay home if I wanted, but I didn't. I needed to be busy, not to be alone with myself. She helped me pick out a long-sleeved reddish-brown dress. It was cotton, so it didn't feel rough against the bruises. I couldn't carry anything in my arms, so I took my little backpack.

At lunchtime, Cory sat at our table. "Hi," I said. "Eden said you wanted to ask me something."

"Yeah," he said. "Are you okay?"

I smiled. "Is that what you've been waiting to ask me?"

"No, but Eden told me what happened yesterday." Eden looked down. "It sounds pretty scary."

Yeah, it was," I admitted, "but I'm okay. Are *you* alright, Eden?"

"No," she said. "I'm still pretty, uh..." she broke off and silent tears rolled down her face. "Oh, my God, I thought you were going to die, Marcie!" she whispered. "And I didn't know what to say to Nina..."

Cory put his hand on her back and said something soft and soothing. She turned to him and put her head on his shoulder, crying quietly. Carla suddenly stood, looking over my head at someone. It was the cafeteria monitor. Carla very quickly intercepted the woman and talked to her, seriously and intensely. The monitor put up her hand several times to quiet Carla, but Carla pushed on, insisting and explaining.

They talked for a few moments, and then the monitor and Carla came over.

"Eden, honey," the woman said. "Are you okay? Would you like to go to the nurse's office?"

Eden replied with a sad, muffled "No."

"Okay," she said. "But if you're too upset, one of your friends can take you there. Right, girls?" We nodded. She scratched her cheek, and said to Cory, "For today it's fine, but tomorrow, you have to sit with the other boyfriends." Cory gaped, and Eden gave a little giggle.

"Is that Cory's cell phone, or is that you, Eden?" I joked. She sniffed, sat up, and started wiping her tears.

"I'm okay," she said. "Thanks, Cory."

"Yeah," he said, turning red as a beet.

The cafeteria monitor indicated by gestures that she had her eyes on Cory, then smiled and left.

Carla said, "Wow. I didn't think she'd listen to reason."

"That was very cool, what you did, Carla," I commented.

She shrugged. "Hey, by the way," she told me, "I'm never gonna wish any more adventures on you, Marcie. I'm sorry I ever did! I hope you can really keep a low profile from here on."

"Thanks," I told her, smiling. "We'll see what the future brings."

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