Mouth to beak? Now you need to lay this on your tongue. Don’t swallow it.

I faltered, staring at Corrine.

I can’t, he said.I can’t. He shook his head, panic making his movements too quick. I can’t go in there.

You can’t abandon her, his mother said.She was never mine to abandon.Michael! Helen gasped. How can you say such a thing?

Mother, he said, desperately trying to redirect the conversation, she needs a woman. What can I do?You can be her friend, Helen said softly, and he felt eight again, scolded for a thoughtless transgression.

No, he said, and his voice horrified him. He sounded like a wounded animal, pained and confused. But there was one thing he knew for certain. He couldn’t see her. Not now. Not yet.

Michael, his mother said.He pushed me, Amanda said.

Oliver, Phillip cut in. Someone pushed her, and I’m fairly certain it was not I.Oliver chewed on his lower lip, having forgotten to consider the fact that his culpability would be quite obvious. Maybe she fell over on her own, he suggested.

Phillip just stared at him, hoping that the ferocious expression would be enough to nip that idea in the bud.Very well, Oliver admitted. I pushed her. I’m sorry.