It had been several hours since Dustin had stormed out of the house. Beau was fast asleep and the two friends were waiting to hear from Darren or for Dustin to come home. Dina had texted her sister to let her know she’d be home late, but Nina had not texted back yet.
“It’s getting late” Brandi lamented to her friend.
“Darren will do his best to find Dustin, Brandi.”
“What if he can’t? What do I do?”
Just then Brandi heard someone turn a key in the lock of the front door.
“Dustin!” she exclaimed and ran towards it.
Brandi enveloped her oldest son as he entered the small trailer home. Dustin didn’t pull away and let’s his mother hold onto him as long as she wanted to.
Darren noticed Dustin was a lot more agitated than he was a few minutes ago. He wanted to push, but he’d just promised the boy he wouldn’t do that and he wanted, needed Dustin to trust that he’d keep his word.
“I think I’ll head home now.” Dustin stated as he quickly got up off the ground.
“I’ll walk with you.”
“It’s okay. It’s not far. I promise I’ll go home”
“Okay” Darren responded and watched Dustin back as he walked away.
He waited about 30 seconds before he followed him.
There were not many places a teenager could go in Pleasantview past 9 pm because very few places were open in Pleasantview past 9 pm. Darren had already checked with the ticket counter at the movie theater. No one had seen Dustin that night. He’d looked in the Flamingo. Checked to see if the bartender had let Dustin in, but he wasn’t there either.
Darren walked around the park one last time to make sure he hadn’t miss the boy, when he spotted him sitting by the small pond.
The boy looked up at him and the first thing Darren thought was Dustin looked way too old for someone his age. The tragic death of his father had really taken it’s toll on him.
“Alright. But I want you to know that, when you’re ready, you can talk to me about anything. Anything, Dustin.” Darren repeated for emphasis.“I know you think you needed to grow up fast and take care of your mom and brother, since you’re dad’s gone, but…”
“I don’t think that, I know that. It’s my job to make sure nothing happens to them now.”
Darren was taken back by the forcefulness of Dustin’s response and the phrasing of his words. He couldn’t put his finger on what it was, but something was very wrong. And it wasn’t just the shiner on his eye that was alarming him.
“What do you mean by that, Dustin?”
“Nothing. I don’t mean anything” Dustin responded immediately.